Moral Gravity and Forgiveness of Original Sin
I use this topic to speculate on the Christian Paschal mystery. I try to show that taking gravity -the seriousness – of an offense as an intrinsic feature of the offense is a theologically rich concept although in secular thinking gravity of an offense is extrinsic.
A fruitful opening question runs “Is an intrinsically grave wrong forgivable?” We turn away from legal and ordinary moral thinking because there are no intrinsically grave acts for those ways of thinking. For in legal and everyday moral thinking gravity depends upon the harm done by the act and the intention of the actor to do harm in the circumstance.
In the previous post, it was proposed that by interpreting moral rules as divine commands, we might be able to develop a concept of intrinsically grave wrong. Consider the following working definition.
An act is an intrinsically grave wrong if it is direct disobedience of a command of God. In the Judaic-Christian myth, Eve’s eating the apple was a grave wrong despite the triviality of eating an apple and Eve’s good intention to attain knowledge of good and evil. On the tempter’s suggestion, she directly with full consent of her will disobeyed God’s command. Adam endorsed and participated in the disobedience. So, at our beginning, humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, has directly willed to disobey God’s commands. So, from our beginning we are guilty of grave wrongs. For what Adam and Eve’s choice represents is each of us, except Mary mother of Jesus, accepting as a live option choosing evil – defiance of God – as a means to good.
How can God forgive us for that?
Consideration of what is involved in direct defiance of God, shows what might be needed to forgive such a wrong. Direct disobedience of a command of God is to will not to be as God wills us to be. However, willing not to be as God wills us to be is to will not to be at all. For what God does not will is nothing. So, Adam and Eve willed not to be – that is total evil: complete lack of any being.
I am using a command theory of morality in which choice of wrong requires retributive punishment.
Choice of wrong is choice to have a good inhibited. In general, the retributive punishment for choice of a good not to be is to be deprived of the good one chose to inhibit i.e., not to be. For instance, the apt retributive punishment for choosing death for another in murder is to lose one’s own life. So, in the case of Adam and Eve’s choice of not to be, the suitable retributive punishment is not to be. But, in this model of original sin, based on the Adam and Eve myth, Adam and Eve chose for humanity. The punishment, then, would be the annihilation of humanity.
God forgave Adam and Eve, viz., humanity, by not requiring of us the evil of annihilation that we have chosen. But how might God have forgiven the punishment? God gave humanity free will. Humanity used free will to choose not to be. Letting the choice of a free will come about is a great good because free will is a great good. So, God would not hinder the choice of humanity to be annihilated. But annihilation of humanity would be an evil – lack of being for all humans. God loves, wills the good, of humans. So, God wills that human not be annihilated as they have chosen.
How can God protect us from our punishment of annihilation which we have chosen? God becomes incarnate as a the human Jesus. In Jesus’ execution, human nature was annihilated as a punishment, Jesus’ death was more than our deaths. Jesus’s death was total annihilation. Jesus suffered exceedingly. As a man he suffered horrible biological death on the cross. After biological death, he suffered the total evil -non being- of annihilation which is hell. Only God who sustains all things in being could have had human nature annihilated, kept humans in existence and then re-created human nature.