Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sin and Immortality, Part 1

Adam & Eve and Immortality

The Orthodox believe that immortality is strictly a divine attribute, just like knowing everything or being everywhere at once. God alone has it. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) and “I am Resurrection and Life” (John 11:25) and “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:14) and “Who only hath immortality.” (I Timothy 6:16)

We hold that Adam and Eve were not created with this divine attribute. The Life they had was specifically God’s Life, shared with them. Their Life, we can say, was derivative, was borrowed, was God’s Life breathed into their inanimate clay. No, God does not have lungs or gills, has no need of oxygen, and does not literally breathe, but the idea is that Life is His, and He shares His Life with Adam and Eve (in a unique way not granted to animals) for as long as they will have Him. It’s as if He were the Fountain of Immortality, and they were merely dipping their straws into it.

Of course the Life they had, being God’s Life, was indeed immortal life, but their hold on it was not yet firmly established, for they were, as St. Irenaeus is fond of telling us, but spiritual infants. Because they were not yet perfect, they were still capable of falling into slavery to the devil. Because they were not yet wise, they were still able to pull their straws out of the Fountain and throw them away.

Had they remained in obedient communion with God, eventually that communion would have matured into something permanent, immune from assaults by the devil, at which point they would have been sealed with immortality. In more mythological terms, God would have allowed them to eat of the Tree of Life (and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!) when they were mature enough to handle these. As it happened, though, He drove them out of the Garden specifically lest they eat of the Tree of Life and sin dwell forever and ever in their immortal bodies.

But notice carefully: they had not yet eaten from the Tree of Life (Christ). They were not yet confirmed in immortality.

Thus we say that Adam and Eve were created neither immortal nor mortal, but instead, with the capacity to become either.

This is very important because it is part of what underlies a horrible Western error with grave implications concerning who God is. I mean this: if one believes Adam and Eve were created mortal, then God is the Author of death. But also, if one believes Adam and Eve were created immortal, then by definition nothing and nobody can cause them to die – except almighty God. Thus, one will be forced to conclude that, literally, God killed them as punishment for their sin. And of course, a god who creates death or who literally would kill us for revenge or retaliation is not the true and living God we Orthodox know, not the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will have more to say on that in the next post.



JTKlopcic said...

It’s as if He were the Fountain of Immortality, and they were merely dipping their straws into it.

"As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches...."