Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Fall of Man and Restoration

The Fall of Man/Restoration: The Eastern/Orthodox Teaching

Therefore the Lord God sent him [the man] from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove at the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
~Old Testament, Genesis 3: 23-24

Man’s choice to succumb to his impulses and desires contrary to remaining in God’s Will, lost his original state of existence or righteousness with God, following after his fancy. Adam’s choice to choose his way over God’s way had consequences for him personally, but affected the entire human race as a result. Unlike the Western Augustinian perspective of Original sin, Eastern theology of the original sin does not teach that all members subsequently are ‘guilty’ of the personal sin of the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve, but inherit the consequences of a broken human condition. An Eastern theological understanding of original sin does not teach that all of us who are members of the human race inherit the guilt of the personal sin of Adam and Eve but the consequences of their personal sin.

Although Adam and Eve had been created in a state of original righteousness, or as the Church Fathers have often referred to as a state of “perfect harmony,” as goes their ‘natural perfection,’ it did not preclude that their existence was a state of moral or ethical perfection. A human natural state of existence requires a development beyond the natural state of existence as in the testing moments of moral and ethical development. Even Jesus in his fully human state is described as having had to grow in wisdom and grace. Jesus in the fullness of his human existence had to learn and develop like all of us. Jesus did not come forth from the Virgin Mary describing the hypostatic union. Debates have ensued for centuries regarding a descending versus an ascending Christology and continue. Sacred Scripture clearly identifies that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Anointed One, Kyrios, “grew in wisdom and in years.” The Gospel of St. Luke reads: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,” (Luke 2: 52).

The natural sate of perfect harmony enjoyed by Adam and Eve did not mean that they enjoyed a an illumined intellect without the testing of moral or ethical growth. As the Orthodox priest, Father Demetrios S. Kavadas writes: “The natural perfection of Adam had need of trial and testing to be transmuted into moral and ethical perfection, but by his own will he turned aside from his true end, at the instigation of the Evil One, to serve his own will in preference to that of his Creator,” (Kavadas, Orthodox Dogmatics, 10). Therefore the state of the human condition became tainted, both physically and spiritually through the action of man; man’s condition was changed because of man’s choice, and every descendent of our first parents experiences the effects of a distorted humanity.

Just as the first Adam contributed to his entire progeny experiencing the effects of his personal sin, in like manner the second Adam restored the brokenness of the human condition by becoming fully human and submitting himself to the Baptism of St. John in the Jordan. Christ’s baptism made it possible for us to become divinely adopted children of the Father through the power of the life-giving Spirit. Through Christ we are an offered, reconciled and restored humanity.

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the
Jordan, worship of the Trinity was made
manifest; for The voice of the Father bore witness 
to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the likeness of a dove, confirmed
the truth of his word.
O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and
enlightened the world, glory to Thee.

~Troparion of Theophany

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