We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God. Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.
Connecting Suffering with Sin: The Fall
This is not as fanciful as most people think, if we remember the principle of psychosomatic unity. This principle, affirmed by just about every one of the hundreds of schools of psychology, affirms that we are not ghosts in machines, souls imprisoned in bodies, or angels in disguise, but soul-body (“psycho-somatic”) unities. Our souls or psyches or personalities are our form and our bodies are our matter, much as in a poem the meaning is the form and the sounds or syllables are the matter.
Once we grant this principle, it makes sense that if the soul becomes alienated from God by sin, the body will become alienated, too, and experience pain and death as sin’s inevitable consequences. These are not external, arbitrary punishments added on. Spiritual death (sin) and physical death go together because our spirits (souls, consciousness) and bodies go together. This is not original. We learned it from Genesis 3.
But it makes a difference how we interpret this story. There are three ways, and our solution is available only within two of the three ways. First, there is what we may call the fundamentalist interpretation: historical and literal. Second, there is the traditional interpretation: historical but symbolic rather than literal. Third, there is the modernist or liberal interpretation: nonhistorical and nonliteral.
According to the traditional interpretation, which we espouse here, the crucial question is whether the Fall actually happened in human history, not how literally you interpret the garden, the snake, the trees or the fruit. For if the modernist is right and Genesis 3 is only a fable that teaches that each of us sins, and that Adam and Eve are only symbols for Joe and Mary, then we have two terrible consequences.
First, if there never was a real time of innocence, then God did not make us good, as Genesis 1 says he did. If from the beginning we were sinners, then we can trace sin back to our beginning; and “in the beginning, God.” Thus God is to blame for creating sinners.
Second, if the Fall is only what each one of us does, why have none of us ever resisted the forbidden fruit? If out of ten billion people, ten billion choose A and no one chooses B, we can hardly believe we have unfettered freedom to choose between A and B. If the drama in Eden is only the drama of today in symbol, why isn’t it dramatic today, why isn’t it “iffy,” why doesn’t anyone ever choose innocence?
There are two powerful arguments for the historical truth of Genesis 3. First, nearly every tribe, nation and religion throughout history have a similar story. One of the most widespread “myths” (sacred stories) in the world is the myth of a past paradise lost, a time without evil, suffering or death. The mere fact that everyone innately believes the same thing does not prove that it is true, of course; but it is at least significant evidence. And if we assume what Chesterton calls “the democracy of the dead” and extend the vote to everyone, not just to “the small and arrogant oligarchy of the living,” the few lucky ones who happen to be walking about in the strangest, most secularized society in history, it puts the onus of proof on the small modern minority who scorn the universal myth.
A second piece of experiential evidence for a historical time of innocence and a historical Fall are the four most salient facts about the human condition:
1. All desire perfect happiness.
2. No one is perfectly happy.
3. All desire complete certainty and perfect wisdom.
4. No one is completely certain or perfectly wise.
The two things we all want are the two things no one has. We behave as if we remember Eden and can’t recapture it, like kings and queens dressed in rags who are wandering the world in search of their thrones. If we had never reigned, why would we seek a throne? If we had always been beggars, why would we be discontent? People born beggars in a society of beggars accept themselves as they are. The fact that we gloriously and irrationally disobey the first and greatest commandment of our modern prophets (the pop psychologists)—that we do not accept ourselves as we are—strongly points to the conclusion that we must at least unconsciously desire, and thus somehow remember, a better state.
To help understand Creation and the Fall, the image of three iron rings suspended from a magnet is helpful. The magnet symbolizes God; the first ring, the soul; the middle ring, the body; and the bottom ring, nature. As long as the soul stays in touch with God, the magnetic life keeps flowing through the whole chain, from divine life to soul life, body life and nature life. The three rings stay harmonized, united, magnetized. But when the soul freely declares its independence from God, when the first iron ring separates from the magnet, the inevitable consequence is that the whole chain of rings is demagnetized and falls apart. When the soul is separated from God, the body is separated from the soul—that is, it dies—and also from nature—that is, it suffers. For the soul’s authority over the body is a delegated authority, as is humanity’s authority over nature. When God the delegator is rejected, so is the authority he delegated. If you rebel against the king, his ministers will no longer serve you. Thus both suffering and sin are traced to man, not God.
(Part two next week)