Discussion of the Fall into Sin

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By: Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy
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Discussion of the Fall into Sin

When God created the first man, He saw that he was very good, that man was directed towards God in love. There were no conflicts in the first created man. Man was a complete unity of spirit, soul and body, one harmonious whole — the spirit of man was directed towards God, the soul was united or freely submitted to the spirit, and the body to the soul. There was unity of purpose, direction, and will. Man was holy, becoming like God.

The will of God is specifically this: that man freely, that is, with love, strive towards God, the source of eternal life and blessedness, and that in this way he remain continually in communion with God, in the blessedness of eternal life. Such were Adam and Eve. Therefore they had illuminated reason and Adam knew every creature by name. This means that for him the physical laws of the formation of the earth and the animal world were made manifest — those laws, which we are now only partially discovering. By the fall into sin, men destroyed their internal harmony — the unity of spirit, soul and body — they upset their nature. There was no more unity of purpose, direction, and will.

[In vain some people wish to interpret the fall into sin as allegory, that is, that the fall into sin consisted of the physical love between Adam and Eve, forgetting that the Lord Himself commanded them, “be fruitful and multiply…” Moses clearly recounts that, “Eve first sinned alone, and not together with her husband.” Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow writes “How could Moses have written that if he were writing only allegorically, which some people like to find here?”]

The result of the fall into sin was that our fore-parents, by giving in to the temptation, ceased to regard the forbidden fruit as a matter of the commandment of God and began to see it in relationship to themselves, to their feelings, and heart, and understanding, departing from the unity of God’s truth into a multitude of private thoughts and private wishes, not concentrated in the will of God, that is, departing into lust. Desire, having conceived sin, gives rise to active sin (James 1:14-15). Eve, tempted by the Devil, saw the forbidden tree not for what it was but what she wanted, in accordance with obvious forms of desire (I John 2:16; Gen. 3:6). What kinds of desire were found in the soul of Eve before the eating of the forbidden fruit? And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that is, imagined a certain special, extraordinarily pleasant taste in the forbidden fruit — this is lust of the flesh. And that it was pleasing to the eye, that is, it seemed to the woman to be more beautiful than all the other fruit — this is lust of the eyes, or the passion to acquire. It was desirable because it grants knowledge. The woman wanted to know the loftier, divine knowledge which the tempter offered her — this is the pride of life or the love of glory.

The first sin is born in sensuality, with the striving for pleasant feelings, for physical comfort; in the heart, with the desire for pleasure without discernment; and in the mind, with the fantasy of arrogant, varied knowledge. Thus, it penetrates all the powers of human nature.

The disrupting of human nature also includes the fact that sin turned or tore the soul from the spirit, and the soul, as a result, began to be attracted to the body, to the flesh, and to depend on it. The body, losing its former lofty power of the soul and itself a creation from nothingness, began to have attraction to sensuality, to emptiness, to death. Therefore the result of sin is illness, destruction, and death. The mind of man was darkened, the will weakened, the feeling distorted, conflicts arose, and the human soul lost purposeful striving towards God.

In this manner, having stepped over the limits established by the commandment of God, man turned his soul away from God, the true fullness and universal focal point, and became self-centered, enclosed in the darkness of sensuality, in the coarseness of matter. The mind, will and activity of men turned away from God to material creation, from the heavenly to the earthly, from the unseen to the seen (cf. Gen. 3:6). Deceived by the wiles of the tempter, man by his own will “is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them” (Ps. 48:12).

The disruption of human nature by ancestral sin — the disruption of soul and spirit in man, which now has an attraction to the sensual, is clearly expressed in the words of the Apostle Paul, “For the good that I would do, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:19-20). Man constantly suffers from “pangs of conscience” when realizing his sinfulness, his criminality. In other words, it is impossible for man, by his own powers, without the interference or help of God, to restore his damaged and disrupted nature. Therefore, it was necessary for God Himself to come down and dwell upon the earth. The incarnation of the Son of God was necessary for the restoration of the fallen and corrupted nature of man, to save man from damnation and eternal death.

Why Did the Lord God Permit the First Man to Fall into Sin?

Almighty God, without a doubt, could have prevented the fall of the first people, but He did not wish to stifle their freedom, because it is not in His nature to distort His own image in man. The image and likeness of God is expressed in the free will of man.

Prof. Nesmeloff explains this matter very well: “Because it is not clear and is even completely inconceivable for many people to understand why a mechanical salvation is impossible, we should examine this impossibility more closely. To save the first people by preserving the conditions in which they lived before the fall was impossible because their fall was such that they showed themselves to be not only mortal, but also to be criminal. This means that as long as they were aware of their crime, Paradise would in no way be possible for them because of their awareness of their own criminality. If it had happened that they forgot their crime, then by this same act they would only have confirmed their sinfulness, and the result would be that Paradise was impossible for them again because of their moral inability to approach that state in which their first life in Paradise took place. Consequently, the first people could not return themselves to the lost Paradise, not because God did not wish it, but because their own moral condition did not permit and could not permit this.

“The children of Adam and Eve were not guilty of their crime, and could not recognize themselves as criminal merely because their parents were criminals. There is no doubt that God, Who is likewise able to create man and to make an infant grow, could have brought forth the children of Adam from a state of sinlessness and placed them in the normal conditions of moral development. To achieve this, the following would be necessary:

a) The consent of God to the damnation of the first people;

b) The agreement of the first people to grant God rights over their children and to give up all hope of salvation forever; and,

c) The agreement of the children to leave their parents in a state of damnation.

“If we allow that the first two of these conditions would in some way be considered possible, nonetheless in no way would it be possible to realize the third necessary condition. For if the sons of Adam and Eve in fact did sin, then for them to let their father and mother perish for the crime that they committed would obviously only demonstrate that they were completely unworthy of Paradise and that they would have surely lost it themselves.”

It would have been possible to destroy the men that sinned and create new ones, but would not the newly-created men, having a free will, have begun to sin? Man would then have been born in vain, and not even through a distant offspring would he have overcome the evil he had permitted to triumph over himself. But God was not willing to allow the man He had created to have been created in vain. For the omniscient God does not do anything in vain. The Lord God embraced the entire plan of the creation in His pre-eternal mind and there was included in His pre-eternal plan the incarnation of His Only-begotten Son for the salvation of fallen mankind.

In order not to violate the will of man, it was necessary that fallen mankind be restored by compassion and by love, so that man would wish voluntarily to return to God, and not by force nor necessity, for then men would not be worthy children of God. According to the pre-eternal mind of God, men must become like Him Himself, and sharers of eternal, blessed life with Him.

Thus, the all-wise, all-good and almighty Lord God did not count it unworthy of Himself to come down to the sinful earth, to take upon Himself our flesh, injured by sin, and to save us and return us to the paradisiacal blessedness of eternal life.

Concerning the Image and Likeness of God in Man

The Holy Church teaches that the image of God is to be understood as the powers of the soul: mind, will, feeling, which God granted to man; and the likeness of God is to be understood as the ability of man to direct the powers of his soul to becoming like God, to be perfected in striving for truth and good.

This can be more fully explained by the following:

The image of God is found in the qualities and powers of the soul. God is an invisible Spirit Who penetrates everything in the world, gives life to all, and at the same time He is a Being independent of the world. The soul of man, present in the entire body, and giving life to the body, even though it has a certain dependence on the body, still continues to exist after the death of the body. God is eternal; the soul of man is immortal. God is all-wise and all-knowing; the soul of man has the power to learn what is present, to remember the past and even at times to prophesy the future. God is all-good, that is, all-kind, all-merciful, and the soul of man has the power to love others and to sacrifice itself. God is almighty, the creator of all that is; the soul of man has the power and the ability to think, to make, to create, to build, etc. But, of course, there exists an immeasurable difference between God and the powers of the human soul. The powers of God are unlimited, and the powers of the human soul are very limited. God is a being that is absolutely free; the soul of man has only freedom of will. Therefore man can wish, but he can also not wish to be the likeness of God, for this depends on his own free desire, on his free will.

The likeness of God depends on the direction of spiritual abilities. This requires that man work on himself spiritually. If a man strives for truth and good, for the righteousness of God, then he becomes like God. However, if a man loves only himself, lies, makes enemies, does evil, cares only for earthly goods, thinks only about his body and does not care for his soul, then such a person ceases to be in the likeness of God and becomes in his life like a beast, and can finally become like an evil spirit, a devil.

(from: The Law of God

by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)