The Two “How’s” – On Multiple Causality


“So, when a ship has overcome the dangers of the sea, although the result be accomplished by great labor on the part of the sailors, and by the aid of all the art of navigation, and by the zeal and carefulness of the pilot, and by the favoring influence of the breezes, and the careful observation of the signs of the stars, no one in his sound senses would ascribe the safety of the vessel, when, after being tossed by the waves, and wearied by the billows, it has at last reached the harbor in safety, to anything else than to the mercy of God. Not even the sailors or pilot venture to say, I have saved the ship, but they refer all to the mercy of God; not that they feel that they have contributed no skill or labor to save the ship, but because they know that while they contributed the labor, the safety of the vessel was ensured by God.” – Origen, De Pricipiis, 3.1.18

One of the many criticisms laid at the doorstep of theists is that we attribute to God that which seems to be easily accounted for by natural factors. A person suffering from a great illness recovers after consulting a physician and undergoing the physician’s recommended treatments. A husband safely navigates icy roads to come home to his concerned wife. A student, after long hours of study, finally passes the last exam and wins for herself degree and title.

If the patient, man, and woman are theists and devout, they will thank God for the outcome.

This seems like foolishness to those who believe firmly that we live in a world of simple efficient causality. In a mechanistic universe where no room for freedom exists, no room for multiple causality can exist. But the Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or any other religious person, need not hold to a purely mechanistic universe. And, even if we did, the causation of God’s intent would still by no means be ruled out.

Let us put aside the question of mechanistic/non-mechanistic universes and consider a thought experiment with regard to causation.  We will see if we cannot get at what theists mean when they attribute to God some good event.

Imagine a man walking down a mountain path, hurrying to bring medicine to his daughter which he has acquired in a nearby village. The man is suddenly set upon by a mountain lion, and prays to God for help. In what seems a miraculous event, a fall of rocks at that moment crushes the mountain lion, allowing the man to pass by safely and rescue his child’s life. And so begins the story of a young woman who grows up to save her nation from poverty, despair, and invasion.

In a mechanistic appraisal of these events, we might say that the events could not have happened any other way. What appears to us as a shocking and favorable coincidence is, indeed, just one of the many patterns that emerges from the complex interaction of the factors of the universe. Those rocks would have fallen at that moment whether the man’s prayer had happened or not. Perhaps they would have fallen even if the man and mountain lion had not been there. Perhaps the motions or weight or sound of the mountain lion shook them free. Indeed, we could trace the physical causes of those rocks, that lion, and that man back through billions of years of determined causality to the moment of the Big Bang and say that the “why” of that moment was the exact formation of the energy and matter that first expanded in that principal moment.

Yet, we may see the events in another way. The “how” of the rocks falling and killing the mountain lion is also that I, the story teller, have made it happen. I have told the story, not putting the Big Bang first and leading up as a result of its form and matter to the inevitable encounter between man and mountain lion. Instead, the man’s experience, or the daughter’s life of heroism, are the center of the story. The story goes outward from there, and we follow it back to give it context and history. The “how” on this level of the events is my will and act of creating the story. It need not “begin at the beginning” if by “beginning” we mean the first chronological event.

Both “how’s” can exist together, simultaneously, but the mechanistic “how” exists due to the “will and act” how. This leaves out entirely the question of “why.” The why is also my will, but perhaps then it is my will that the young woman should save her country, or that the man should save his daughter, or that the wife of the man might not be widowed. In each case, though, the efficient causes are human efforts, or natural events.  Each person would be right in saying that, though they did their part, the accomplishment of their goal was given by the author of the story.

Benedick and Beatrice spar their way toward each other, but it is the Bard that is to be thanked for their marriage. Frodo may put in the very last of his strength to climb Mount Doom, but it is Tolkien who has ensured that the task is complete.

That we live in a story and not an accident of random events is a matter of perspective. One cannot demand scientific proof that we are in a story any more than Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy might. There is no experiment to run to tell us if we are in a narrative prepared with vast cosmic backdrop for our little lives of love, hatred, jealousies, nobilities, defeats and victories. One either considers the many elements and recognizes the master hand of the master storyteller, or one does not.

But it is clear that it is not contradiction or foolishness when, as the much maligned giant of Christian thought, the second and third century theologian, Origen, relates the situation of sailors above. For it is rooted deeply in the mystery of St. Paul’s teaching, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13).

It is in the will of God that Christians identify their salvation in both mundane and spiritual things. This is not merely theologizing, for the idea itself is contained in the scriptures. For St. Paul speaks from the Areopagus speaking of God as the one “In [whom] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28).

I bring this last point up because some people who have not read much from the ancient world have an assumption that many of Christianity’s arguments are newly minted to defend an old system. But the argument for mechanism/fate is older than Christianity. The Stoics, as best I understand them, held a fatalistic view of a mechanistic universe. Origen, quoted above, lived at the end of the second century into the third century.

The debate is an ancient one, one that Christianity has been very active in from the beginning. And from the beginning we have maintained a very clear idea of (at least) two “how’s” of causality.




Subjectivity and the Hypostatic Union


One of the major difficulties in thinking through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the problem of single or dual subjectivity. The first holds that the subject of every action in the Incarnation is the divine Word of God. Thus we say that God is born, God eats, and God dies and rises. If we were to ask Jesus who He is, in His response of “I AM…” the “I” is the “I” of the Logos, the second person of the Trinity.

This causes some problems and seems to lead us toward a deficient humanity in Christ. The human “I” that each of us is, seems to be lacking in Christ. There is an “I” but it is a divine, not a human self. We find ourselves slipping into a kind of Apollinarian viewpoint in which the self-determining rational mind of Christ is replaced by the Logos.

To check this, we do all we can to buttress the humanity of Christ, insisting on a human spirit and mind, but then finding ourselves in a position in which we are now very close to seeing this collection of elements that make up a human person, doing exactly that. Jesus’ humanity, it seems, must be self-determining to be really human. The “I” of the human Jesus appears to need to be the “I” of a human person otherwise we lose the full humanity of Christ.

But of course, if we follow this well trodden road, we now have two subjective elements, the divine “I” and the human “I”. This falls into the serious problem of the nature of the union between God and our nature. How is it accomplished? If the “I” of Jesus is not divine, how does his life, death, and resurrection help us?

Doctrinally, of course, the Church holds to the Neo-Chalcedonian enhypostatic formula of the human nature of Christ being personal (a person, a subjective ‘I’) in the Logos. A single subject. Yet, if we are sympathetic, we can hear the validity of the concerns of the “two-sons” theology of Antioch.

Perhaps of course, the answer to our conundrum does not lie in trying to refine our formulas to try to explain which elements are maintained and which are lost in the union. Perhaps the answer lies in the deeper mystery of divine Subjectivity.

The “I” of human nature appears to be fundamentally exclusive. It is the “I” that says that I am I and you are you. I am I by not being the “I” that you are. This is, of course, a source of terrible suffering, for selfishness, domination, and abuse all come from the over emphasis of this distinction. But it also is the opportunity for all charity, altruism, and empathy. I cannot have charity if there are no others to love.

This firm distinction of self, however, may not be what is at the base of all creation. The Triune God who is the Father’s self-giving to the Son and Spirit, dwells as the root and base of all self. In the Trinity all self is wholly given away, nothing held back, and no boundaries set up. Distinction, not separation, is the law of love in the Trinity. While we must affirm the “non est” of the Father/Son distinction, we must also more firmly hold to the Dominical mystery that “I and the Father are One.”

One God, not three Gods who share a divine nature. One mystery of three interpenetrating selves giving themselves away wholly and with abandon, patterned on the Father’s foundational gift of self to the Son.

The Self then in the divine life is wholly integrated into the other, or the one who is distinct. We can see the pattern played out Christologically in the Dominical commandments to love our enemies, to give all we have to those who ask, and to love all as brothers and sisters. The divine broadness of selfhood is also revealed in the mystery of the last judgment in which all good and evil done to the least are done to Christ.

It is through these lenses then that we must consider the hypostatic union of single subjectivity that preserves and maintains the fully humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. Only by thinking the whole self-giving and self-identification of the Trinity, and thinking the whole self-giving and self-identification of the Christian life, can we begin to contextualize the mystery of a single subject in Christ.

The subjective “I” of the Logos does not unite itself to any reality to expel that reality from itself. Grace comes to complete, not to destroy. Far be it then that the Logos, in its most perfect union with human nature, should cast out any element, even the human way of saying “I.” Indeed, the Logos unites itself so closely to our nature that our nature can say “I” in the person of the Logos in the way that it says “I” in every other human being. It’s psychology, though unfallen, functions as a human psychology, not driven out by the Logos, but in perfect union with it.

It is a mystery. The perichoretic selves of the Trinity, and indeed the perichoretic selves of Christians, tear down the diabolical demand that I and Thou must always mean different things, while resisting the misunderstanding that they must wholly collapse into each other. Distinction without division is the rule.

These, then, appear to me to be the tools with which we must work at our understanding of the Hypostatic Union of Christ. Let the doctrines of Trinity and Christian love shine a light on the doctrine of the incarnation so that it might shine greater light in return on them.

Can God Make a Rock?

We are often presented with “unanswerable” questions by those who find the idea of God to be either ridiculous or self-contradictory. One aspect or another of the divine fullness is attacked by those who question every minute of every hour. Many of us, who believe that God is the God of traditional Christian expression, have had the question put to us “Can God Make a Rock that God can’t lift?” This post is a short exercise in answering this very question from a number of different theological perspectives. The first approaches the logic of the proposed situation, the second approaches the logic of the question itself, and the third approaches it from a specifically Christian perspective.

1. The Logic of the Proposed Situation

The question is aimed at attacking the omnipotence of God, or even the concept of omnipotence itself. The general idea is that because there are conflicting and mutually exclusive potential realities that an omnipotent God cannot exist, because both alternatives cannot logically be accomplished. Thus, the question asks whether it is possible for God to create a rock that omnipotence cannot lift. If the creation of the rock cannot be done, then God is not omnipotent. If the rock cannot be lifted, the same outcome results.

The question assumes a model of omnipotence that no theologian that I am aware of holds or has ever held in the Christian faith (though I did once meet a pastor who thought this way). The most famous statement on this is from the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, who states “whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility.” (Summa Theolog. I Q25, 3). Thus, whenever Christians say that God is all powerful, we mean specifically that all intrinsically possible things are within God’s power. Thus, God cannot make a square a circle and also leave it a square. It is possible for a square to become a circle, but it is not possible for it to also remain a square during or after the change.

Now that fact has major ramifications for many questions of Christian theology. For those who hold merely to forensic justification or imputed righteousness, one must ask how a person can be saved, i.e. have the life of God, and be in the very likeness of God, while remaining what they were beforehand. These models seem to propose that God can make a circle into a square and leave it still a circle after the fact. Such a thing is impossible, even for a God for whom all things are impossible.

Thus the question of the rock and God’s power, proposes a logically contradictory situation. God cannot create a rock that God cannot lift, not because it is a possibility that there can be rocks that omnipotence cannot lift, but because it is a sheer impossibility. A rock, being a rock, must have weight, even if it is by some miracle of physics, infinite weight. Omnipotence can easily create enough force to move the rock. The logical contradiction is if Omnipotence could not move the rock, for then it would not be omnipotence. Thus we are left with a situation in which God can create a rock of any size, but the fact that it could not be lifted by omnipotence is itself a logical contradiction, and as we have seen, nothing that implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God…or any omnipotence for that matter.

Now, if this means that omnipotence is impossible, in the sense that many of our detractors imagine it, then we must agree, and have always agreed. Omnipotence which implies the ability to do logically contradictory things has never been, to my knowledge, put forward as an attribute of God by any reputable theologian in the entire history of the Church. So, we may agree with our detractors in deriding this particular version of omnipotence. Thank goodness we’ve never actually proposed it.

2. The Logic of the Question

The question itself is structured in a way that most people do not notice. It essentially forms a double negative, and thus condemns God, not for a lack of power, but for actually being omnipotent. I found this answer while reading Gregory of Nazianzus’ Orations, but the answer is so obvious that I’m embarrassed that I did not see it myself immediately.

On the surface, the question proposes two powers that God may have. The first is the ability to create rocks of any size or weight. The second is the power to not lift a rock over a certain size. Immediately the problem comes out at once. The second is not a power at all, not an ability that God can have. The first is the ability to create rocks of any size at all. The second, however, is not an addition to power, but a subtraction of it.

To say that God lacks the ability to not be able to move certain sizes of rock is simply a very complicated way of saying God can move any rock. The fact that God can move rocks is a power, the ability to find a rock, or even to create a rock, that God can’t move, is not an addition to God’s power, but a subtraction from it. The trick to the question it that it shrouds the proposed lack of God’s power as if it were an addition to it. This would be like proposing the idea that I am a poor writer because I cannot write a sentence that I cannot read. (One need not resort, incidentally, to such complicated means to argue for the weaknesses in my writing). If I were a great writer, I could write any sentence. But I must not be a very good one, if there are sentences from my own hand that I cannot read. This is, of course, nonsense.

3. The Christian Response

This will not be a “Christian” Response in the manner that it will attempt to be nice. Christians should in fact be nice, as far as that goes, but they should also be as accurate as possible, and as faithful to the truth as possible. This answer is Christian, in the sense that it comes only from a Christian perspective. The first two answers could be given by anyone of any faith with a little logic behind them. This, however, turns on that most peculiar of Christian doctrines, the Incarnation.

For, it is true that God has made many stones that God cannot lift. One might guess that any stone much over a hundred and fifty pounds would be too much for the God of the Universe. For we, as Christians, believe that God emptied Godself in the act of becoming human, and dwelling among us. God, with human hands and feet, could not lift the vast majority of stones in the world. The body of a carpenter or stonecutter is strong, and Jesus of Nazareth could almost certainly bench more than I can. But the range of human strength is quite limited. Human beings are small things when it comes to the vast weight of many stones. And this Jesus, though God of the universe, was also a man.

And thus the answer particularly from Christianity is, yes. God can, and has, made many stones that God cannot lift. And this too is no detraction from His power. For the God of all creation to empty Himself, a process called Kenosis, is a vast and mighty miracle. To bridge the gap from that which is not created, God the Trinity, to that which is, the universe, and that particular bit we call Earth, is a miracle that even dwarfs the creation of the Universe itself. So mighty is God that God can walk with human feet, and hold things with human hands. But then, those hands can only hold so much.

Of course, we remember as well that Christ knew very well about humanity’s rock problems. So he offered us the power to move them, to become like Him, and to be able, through faith to move mountains. (Mt 17:20)

So ultimately, the question is not, “Can God make a rock so big that he cannot move it?” The question is “Can God make a rock so big, that those made to share God’s own nature cannot move it?” And the answer, thanks be to God, is no.

The Trinity and Ontology

Recent critiques of the traditional expression of the Trinitarian formula have suggested that the traditional order of Ground/Procession from Father to Son to Spirit (in the West) and from Father to Son and Father to Spirit (in the East), have suggested an alternate and mutually dependent model of the Trinity.  In this model, the Father gives to the Son and Spirit, but also receives from the Son and Spirit.  This mutuality is reflected in each person of the Trinity.While Kathryn Tanner has critiqued this mutuality model on Biblical grounds in her book Christ the Key, I would like to approach it on the ground of ontological priority.  In the traditional model, the Father shares His whole being with the Son or Logos, and either then the Father does something similar with the Spirit (which we call spiration) or both the Father and the Son donate their beings and the relationship of their beings to the third person of the Trinity.  Thus, ontological precedence is established, as the ground by which the whole Trinity is in relation is rooted in the Father’s being.  Thus if the Eastern perspective is correct, then the framework in which the Spirit interacts with the Son is by means of the Father.  If the western expression is correct, then there is a full mutually accessible ontology shared by all, but rooted in the Father.

In this model, all relations are rooted in the Father, and the Father provides the ground for the entire context of relations.  However, in the model of mutuality and interchangeability, it can be very quickly seen that there is no ontological ground for the relations of the three persons.  If the Father is mutually dependent on the Son and the Spirit, we are left with no framework for these relationships to exist in.  This lack of framework becomes more clear when we ask questions of the state of the existence of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  In what mode does the Father exist?  In the traditional Model, the Father is self existent and the only ingenerate one (as per Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius the Great), the Son is begotten from the Father and thus exists within the context and framework of the Father.  The ground of the Son’s being is the Father, and thus there can be relations between the Father and the Son.  The Spirit, either proceeds only from the Father, and thus has the shared framework of the Father with the Son, but must have all relations with the Son through the Father; or the Spirit processes from both the Father and the Son and thus has mutual accessibility to both by means of being grounded in both ontological sources.

However, if there is strict mutuality in the trinity, the Son’s ontological framework is distinct from the Father’s and Spirit’s.  Each person exists as a discrete ontological identity that does not have a rooting in the others, and the mutuality has no framework in which to operate.  The world then is such that it must exist in one of these three frameworks, for they can have nothing at all to do with each other, as they have no mutual grounding in a single ontological root.  Thus, while at first glance it may seem like we end up with Tri-theism, we in fact end up with strict mono-theism as only one person of the trinity could in fact be the God of this world, and the other two persons could know nothing of it, having no ontological framework from which to share in the world.

An objection might be that the mutuality of the trinity is not one of three discrete persons ontologically distinct, but that they share a mutuality in the divine essence.  This essence then creates the shared ontological framework of the trinity that allows for the mutual relations that are being proposed.  If by the divine essence, what is meant is an essence proper to one of the persons of the trinity and shared with the other two, then we are back to the traditional understanding and a workable ontology.  However, this also introduces the begetting and spirating of the traditional model.

If instead we say that the divine essence does not properly belong to any one of the persons of the trinity but is equally their own, then we come to a problem.  Is the divine essence prior to the divine persons?  If it is, then it can be something in which they each participate, but then it is not identifiable with the persons themselves, as it is prior to them.  It then becomes the source from which they all proceed.  The essence, prior to the persons or the relations of persons, is either impersonal or personal.  If it is prior to all persons, then it is impersonal, and thus contrary to its manifestation in the Persons of the Trinity.  This also brings in the category of person or hypostasis which also must then be a category in which all three members of the Trinity participate, and which must be prior to them.  If the divine essence is personal, then there is in fact a divine person in which all members of the trinity participate, and we return once more to the traditional model.  As well, taking this particular perspective would be to in fact do what Vladimir Lossky so rightly criticized of western Theological tradition in the Mystcial Theology of the Eastern Church, the priority of essence above persons and their relationship.

If on the other hand, we say that each of the persons properly has what we call divinity, yet do not share a prior essence, then we run up against nonsense.  For if there is no prior essence, we may simply describe their shared characteristics as “divine” but that is an epistemological model and not a description of a reality shared by the three persons.  We are simply saying, the Logos is Unique, the Spirit is Unique, the Father is Unique, but they each share the exact same attributes, we are immediately contradicting ourselves.  As well, even displaying these identical predicates does not form a ground of ontological interaction.  Three very alike things cannot interact if they do not have a common ground.  Three actors may play Hamlet, but unless they are on the same stage, they do not finish each other’s lines.  There is no context for the first to being “What a piece of work is man,” and for the next to say “How noble in reason!” and for the last to continue “How infinite in faculties!”

Thus we come once more to the situation raised above, that of discrete persons without a ground of mutual ontology.  In simple terms, there’s no “something” for the persons to interact through.  This reveals the wisdom of the ancient teachings of the Church, that the Father, who is His own essence, shares Himself with the Son and they share themselves with the Spirit (to follow the western model).  The ground of all “Personness” or Hypostasis and being, even divine being, is the Father, and thus all of reality holds together in one great mutuality of being shared from the tap root, the Father.

This of course does not inherently mean that there must be subordination in the Trinity, for the Father shares the whole Self with the Son, and that Self is clearly a giver of Self.  This sharing of divinity, a.k.a. the Father’s own self, brings about mutuality of love, even if it does not bring about mutuality of ontological origin.  The Father gives the Father’s self away to the Son and the Spirit and holds nothing back for Himself.

Concerns for subordination in the church, and continued patriarchal structures should be therefore centered on  the mutual giving of the Triune life, not with the restructuring of the Trinity.  For, as we have seen, the loss of a mutual ontological framework for the Father, Son, and Spirit, divides the Trinity instead of uniting it.

On the Fall

I recently had a very brief interaction with a person who describes herself as part of liberal religion who praised Eve for “giv[ing] up blissful ignorance and look[ing] for truth, knowledge, and understanding.”   When I suggested that this was equating the fall which caused the death of God as a good thing, she responded that “Not all see a “fall” in Genesis. Not all believe that humanity is fundamentally and intractably flawed from the outset.”  I then asked if she could explain Paul’s statement that “all sin in Adam” and Christ’s redeeming death.  So far I have received no response.

My view on this is that there are three things going on, each of them regrettable.  First is the equation of that which as brought about every terrible and horrible thing, including the horrific treatment of women, with something good, the engaged desire for knowledge.  Second is a firm understanding of biblical scholarship on the text involved.  Third is a demonstrable lack of familiarity with Christian teaching from the earliest centuries of the church.

The first is easily shown when we consider that every evil caused by human beings is traced to the fall, including human death.  Poverty, starvation, enmity between the sexes, and the sufferings of child-birth are all directly related to the act of Adam and Eve in eating the fruit of the Etz HaDaat Tov VaRa.  As well, the suffering and death of Jesus are directly linked with the fall in the garden in the Protoevangelion and by Paul, and the work of Christ is identified as undoing the death that has come from this “look[ing] for truth, knowledge, and understanding.”

The fundamental problem with all of this is that if in fact God has our best interests at heart, and God’s desire is that we should strive for knowledge, truth, and understanding by directly disobeying God’s command in the garden, then how is it that such evil has come from this “act of liberation?’  How is it that the one who desires our good, has set up a world where the only way to achieve that good is to disobey and then suffer the horrors of famine, plague, rape, torture, blind malice, and death?  What can we say about the Character of God if this is the case?

What we must conclude is then that the one who has set things up is not our friend, for if doing good brings about evil, then we are in an evil world from top to bottom.  We must look to the one who in fact helped us out of our ignorance, the serpent.  Surely he, then is our friend.  He who led us into this new world where we can, as this person has said, “take knowledge,power 2 discern, cocreation w/ God” must be our true companion in this journey.

Now those who know their church history will know that there was another group who thought this way, a branch of the gnostics who saw the creator God as evil and the serpent as a freer of humanity.  This is, of course, very dangerous company to keep, as they denied the real suffering of Christ, and the physical incarnation.  Oddly enough, Jesus is identified directly with the creation of the world.  He insists on obeying God no matter the cost.  How do we reconcile these things?  The Valentinians created a vast complex array of emanations to deal with these problems.  Perhaps those holding to the goodness of the Eve’s decision should take the time to read Against Heresies by Irenaeus of Lyons to understand the complicated work ahead of them if they follow their statements to their logical conclusions.

The second problem here is the lack of Biblical Scholarship that comes into such an understanding.  There has been a recent move to understand the Garden Story in the context of the Babylonian exile, and perhaps even as a critique of the Solomnic wisdom tradition (as per Sparks and Stavrakopoulou).  When the sin in the garden takes place, where does God send them?  To the east.  And when Cain kills Abel, where is he sent?  To the east.  When the Jews sinned, leading to the deportation to Babylon, one need only look at a map to realized that the direction from Jerusalem to Babylon is that of the eastward orientation.  If the Babylonian Exile is the context for the writing of the garden story, it is very hard to say that the intent of that passage is merely one of a people who “look for truth, knowledge, and understanding.”

Even without this particular interpretation, if the same banishment is given to Adam and Eve for their “good deeds” as Cain for killing his brother, what does that say about Fratricide?  Is Cain merely, “exercising his freedom against the tyranny of pastoral theocracy?”  Should we all head out and kill shepherds?  How is it that banishment east is somehow the result of both a liberating act and the murder of one’s brother?

Third, there is a real lack of understanding of the Patristic teaching of humanity’s destiny if we had not fallen.  The Greek fathers suppose, from their understanding of the doctrine of the deification of humanity, that had we not fallen, we would have grown into wisdom over time, and eventually, after growing in knowledge, wisdom and truth, by power of the incarnation, joined faultlessly with God through the deification of humanity (for a simple introduction to this theme, please see Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis by Norman Russell).  Such a view supposes that the creation of humanity was not complete in the garden, but only the first phase.  The second phase, the training up of humanity to be able to bear the image of God in a new and fuller way, was always to be completed when God came close in the incarnation.  The difference that sin made was that the incarnation alone was now not sufficient to bring us up to this new relationship with God, but instead the passion, death, and resurrection of the God-Man Jesus was required to undo the work of Adam and Eve.  For some of these ancient theologians, the words “It is finished” on the cross are a statement that completes the process begun in Genesis 1:27, “Let us create Adam in our image.”  If one wishes to see this played out in a fantastical setting, one need only read C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra.

Thus we find that such a view, ignoring the real ramifications of the fall, ignoring the historical context of the text, and ignoring the theological history of the text is in need of simply more education.  It may be well and good to look for good in evil, but we must remember that it is the unique property of God to bring good out of evil, but even God cannot make an evil thing good unless it dies and rises in God’s own self.

(It should be noted here that Adam and Eve are the Biblical representation of the first humans who lived in innocent communion with God, and I am not wedded to a historical reading of the text.  This does not mean, however, that I am not insistent on reading the text as truth revealed about the origin of humanity (created by God in God’s image), humanity’s role in the world (as proper lord of the world and tiller of the earth), the relation of man and woman (equals, coworkers), and the disobedience of those first people that led to sin and death.)