Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Innocence and Holiness

Adam and Eve were created innocent. This means they had not (yet) transgressed any commandment. More precisely, the commandment, as there was only one, and a very easy one. They were created guiltless. They had what you might call "original innocence."

But we have to be very cautious about saying they were created holy or had "original holiness".

Holiness is, in a word, Christlikeness. And it's true that they were created in His image, as everyone is, without our all being holy. Holiness, moreover, means communion with/in the Holy Spirit. And it's true God breathed His Spirit into them to be their Life; the Holy Spirit is everywhere and fills everything.

But holiness also implies spiritual maturity, being accomplished in spiritual warfare, adept at fending off the assaults of the devil, forgiving and deeply loving every single person, and not putting anything ahead of God.

If our first parents had been created holy, they never would have believed the serpent. They would not have eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil until God should give them permission. Holiness implies knowing good and evil and clinging to the good. Had they been holy, they would have repented after having fallen.

So as far as I can tell, a holy person is not necessarily entirely innocent (and will be the first to tell you he is not, though he strives to be), and an innocent person (a baby) is not necessarily holy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thought provoking post. I'm interested to know your thoughts about the implications of this misunderstanding? What are the dangers it poses?

My understanding of holy is "set apart." In this sense weren't they holy? If holiness is also defined as spiritual maturity, don't holy people still fall as Adam and Eve did?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Hi, Todd. Okay, this is my personal opinion. But the danger I see is if "holy" is a status conferred by God, because then the only way to lose that status is if God revokes it, and that in turn tends to support a portrayal a vindictive, retaliatory deity.

Anonymous said...

That makes sense. Forgive me, is this part of a larger set of your reflections on Genesis?

Here are more questions and thoughts that come to my mind...

Could this status of being "set apart" have been a part of God's original intent and design for man...inherent to being created in His image and likeness? And then something that was lost through the fall?

If this was something given by God, couldn't it still be abandoned by us? So the blame would fall on us rather than on God? It's not something that God revokes, even though He's the One Who gave it to us.

Is this a topic that was addressed by the Fathers?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, let's see. I don't know if it is addressed directly by the Fathers.

It's a sort of postscript to my other reflections on Genesis.

You know what? ISTM the definition "set apart" is something I heard, and perhaps you heard, in a Protestant context. I don't know that I've heard any Orthodox writer use it that way, although perhaps they do. Anyway, my opinion again, "set apart", meaning consecrated to God, would be used mainly for objects. When we speak of a person being holy, we mean what Adam and Eve were destined to become, but failed to.

It holiness is any sort of status conferred by God, then yes, the *blame* could and would be placed on us for abandoning it, but it wouldn't it still be God doing the actual revoking of it?

It can be said, I suppose, that the entire creation was created holy, but then holiness seems to lose its meaning...????

Anonymous said...

I think that definition of holy is pretty universal. I found it at multiple web sites...secular, Hebrew, etc. But maybe there are more specific applications that would be described differently.

Regarding Adam and Eve...

Elder Sophrony, writing about St. Silouan, refers to Adam as falling from a grace-filled state. "When he describes Adam's inconsolable grief, his weeping when he is driven from Paradise, he is, in fact, speaking of his own sorrow after losing grace."

It would seem that God created them in this condition, which they later forsook by their sin. I see it as much different than just being created innocent. Aren't we all created innocent?

I guess the question then is whether a grace-filled state is the same as being holy.