Where we differ is there can only be one history. God knows exactly what that history will be before it happens because He is standing at the end of history looking back and standing at the beginning of history looking forward.
What about Melchizedek?
Again you surprise me, Antoine. I was sure you would remind me of he Catholic dogma that Jesus’ mother Mary lived a sinless life. And that certainly may be true, but it is not essential to my world view. (I have always considered her as the ‘ideal’ woman and mother that my two daughters should emulate, but that does not mean she couldn’t have committed even a venial sin.)
As for Melchizedek leading a sinless life, I leave that up to you and the rest of the experts of the OT. I often turn to Wikipedia as a source, but I am not so gullible as to believe them totally either. They state that the Book of Enoch claims that Melchizedek was also born of a virgin (?) and so he must have been held in high esteem by those authors. When it comes to the formation of a world view that will guide my decisions in life, I do take into consideration the traditional wisdom of past thinkers (church leaders, the New and Old Testaments, etc.), but all of these ‘outside’ sources must pass muster to my own conscience–my ‘with-knowing’–because, at the end of life, only I will be held responsible for the life I have led. Just as in the Garden of Eden, it will do no good to plead of being misled–Adam: “Eve misled me”; or Eve: “the serpent misled me.”
So I am willing to 'place my bets’ on the Way that Jesus shows us. But that is not always easy to discern, for there is some apparent contradiction in how the four Gospels have come down to us. IMHO we still need to make good use of our Minds and Conscience–the Gifts that made us human in the first place.
God also knows what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned!
Hence, this history is also a content of God’s knowledge.
Your use of the term “history” always throws me for a loop. How does knowing what is NOT going to happen count as history? You could say God knows all possible futures, the ones that are not going to happen and the one that will, but there is only one history (what has actually occurred in the past).
For discussing this question I think the basis is the Letter to the Hebrews.
Here Melchizedek is extensively referred to, and it is decisively revealed to us that:
[Jesus] was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:10)
And about Jesus, our High Priest, is said:
when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1: 6).
So let us also especially tonight join the angels in worshiping Him!
“All possible futures” means all possible choices the humans of all times are capable to do. All these possible choices define possible parallel histories in God’s mind. That is why I say that the Multiverse is just a parable about God’s omniscience (see this recent article).
When I make a choice I freely decide which of these histories I will actualize here and now as my history. From my point of view this is “the only one history”. However from God’s perspective all possible histories are equivalent because they all necessarily fulfill the purpose He has for creation.
From God’s perspective there is no past (as you yourself claim). All possible histories occur actually in the future, in the sense that they all have the same (happy) end, the end God aims for His creation.
What I think is:
“Making humans that had to sin, for the sake of redeeming them after they sinned and bringing all of them to heaven” sounds silly on the part of God: Since He could have created humans in heaven instead of creating them in earth.
Making humans free to sin or not to sin, and redeeming those who sinned sounds fitting.
However for the sake of Redemption it would be silly to have on earth people who need Redemption and people who don’t need Redemption.
So it is reasonable to assume that God:
Took directly into heaven those primeval humans who (contrarily to “Adam and Eve”) didn’t sin, if any (on the basis of the Letter to the Hebrews one can think this is the case of Melchizedek);
Let on earth all those primeval humans (“Adam and Eve”) who sinned and subsequently were in need of Redemption.
Creates the new human souls in the same “stage of need of Redemption”, according to Romans 11:32.
Accordingly I think it is not fitting to speak about “God making souls already guilty of sin committed by an ancestor”: So for instance I am not guilty of eventual sins committed by my father.
I would rather state:
After the first sin in the history of humanity God creates all new human souls in need of Redemption, that is, in the same stage the first sinner was after he/she sinned.
Notice that the first sinner was not in need of Redemption before he/she sinned.
In summary, what is transmitted is not any ancestor’s sin but the consequences of the first human sin (which is not necessarily the sin of the first human capable of sinning).
I think God made all humanity in imperfect shells of flesh, knowing that it would take a life of toil and struggle to make the human mind into a vessel appropriate for God’s use.
Some humans have translated this as “sin” and “redemption”.
I would call it “tempering the substance of the soul”.
Do we need for this “tempering” Jesus Christ’s grace, YES or NO?
That is the question!
In my view “Western Christianity” teaches the redeemability of Adam and any human sinner.
This is the very essence of Jesus Christ’s teaching.
By contrast, Jesus teaches the curse of the “Devil and his angels” (e.g.: Matthew 25:41).
The primary question is the power of sin. Legalism says that salvation can came through obedience to the law. Catholicism says that the power of sin can be broken by baptism and obedience to the Church. Wesleyan Protestantism says that salvation breaks the power of sin by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit when Christians are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ came to redeem humanity by reconciling the world to God the Father, or in other words to bring humanity in right relationship to God, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. and each other.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI answers somewhat the question you address in this interview given in March 2016, as he refers to “the conceptuality of St Anselm”.
I would be thankful to know what you think about his answer.
Yes, we need it. Because we are mortals. And mortals, by definition (and not because of one’s ancestors), need tempering.
Thank you very much, Antoine, for the link to Servais’ interview with Benedict XVI. It was certainly eye-opening for me, because Benedict seemed to support my position that God presented ‘Adam’ with the gift of Mind/conscience that gave humankind the potential to work and sacrifice with Him to create a better Universe. Or, maybe I just misunderstood some of the mystical lingo that theologians often use. Correct me if I have been grossly misled by my interpretation.
"When Anselm says that Christ had to die on the cross in order to remedy the infinite offense that had been committed against God, and in this way to restore the shattered order, he uses a language that is difficult for modern man to accept (cf. gs iv 215.ss). Expressing oneself in this way, one risks projecting onto God an image of a God of wrath, relentless toward the sin of man, with feelings of violence and aggression comparable to what we can experience ourselves. How is it possible to speak of God’s justice without potentially undermining the certainty, firmly established among the faithful, that the Christian God is a God “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4)?
The conceptuality of St Anselm has now become for us incomprehensible.
IF this is actually the (former) Pope’s belief, I am greatly heartened. But, even if it is, it has not filtered down to Catholic PIP (people in the Pews), and it is far rom the position taken by the followers of Luther and Calvin–as far as I can tell, anyway. Personally, I believe we ought to be grateful for the Darwinian theory of evolution that enables us to logically discard the belief that god created Adam suddenly–just Poof, a finished product and sinless–and replace it with the view that we are in the process of becoming the creatures God wants us to be. Thus:
“Today, compared to the time of Luther and to the classical perspective of the Christian faith, things are in a certain sense inverted, or rather, man no longer believes he needs justification before God, but rather he is of the opinion that it is God who must justify himself because of all the horrible things in the world and the misery of human beings, all of which ultimately depends on Him. In this regard, I find it significant that a Catholic theologian could profess even in a direct and formal way this inverted position: that Christ did not suffer for the sins of men, but rather, as it were, to “cancel out the faults of God”. Even if most Christians today would not share such a drastic reversal of our faith, we could say that all of this reveals an underlying trend of our times.”
WOW, am I wrong or would such a statement in the year 1490 spur the Inquisition to start gathering firewood! I would prefer a different wording from ‘an inverted position’. I would say rather say that God, in giving humankind the immensely powerful gift of mind, and the free will to use it for good or for evil, has trusted us to help him create a veritable Heaven here of the planet Earth; or else, in using it selfishly, to become Satans ruling over a veritable Hell. In other words, attaining Salvation, may be nothing more than joining with our fellows in love to create and maintain a society that works, even slowly and hesitantly, in that direction.
In the Middle Ages it was easy for European Christians to imagine that humankind existed essentially in two camps: Christians and Heathens–and the Church was the society that would bring all heathens into the team that would be God’s co-creators. Discovery of the the populous civilizations of the East and of the New World changed that, but it seems to me that only recently has Benedict clearly enunciated what that change actually portends:
“In the second half of the last century it was fully affirmed: the realization that God cannot abandon all the unbaptized to damnation and that mere natural happiness cannot represent a real answer to the question of human existence. If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was definitively abandoned…. So in a grand and pure way, one perceives there what God’s mercy means, what God’s participation in human suffering means. It is not a matter of a cruel justice, nor of the Father’s fanaticism, but rather of the truth and the reality of creation: the true intimate overcoming of evil that ultimately can be realized only in the suffering of love.”
I hope I have not misinterpreted this interview, Antoine. I had no idea that anyone in the Vatican had this progressive a view of what being a Christian really means. Is there anything in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism that teaches that we have a God who suffers along with us?
@AntoineSuarez I still can hardly believe that Benedict XVI could profess an “inverted position” on Christ’s role in Salvation. Is this perhaps the reason he now holds an Emeritus title?
What Benedict XVI teaches in this respect is the very essence of the teaching of Jesus Christ.
No. The reasons for retiring as Pope have been clearly explained by him at different occasions and have for sure nothing to do with his position “that we have a God who suffers along with us”.
God’s suffering is a subject worthy of further reflection.
It surely is!!! But is there any hope of uniting all Christians in that belief, let alone all of humankind? I never could accept the idea that God got so disgusted with humankind that he decided to wipe them out with a worldwide flood. That’s not the essence of the Creator of our Universe! Will humankind ever achieve the goals that God has in mind for us unless we realize that suffering is part of Who He Is?
So if I understand well you are assuming the following:
After “a life of toil and struggle” with help of the grace of Jesus Christ “the human mind” becomes “a vessel appropriate for God’s use” and enters eternal life.
But this means that our “mortal condition” is only a temporary one, and the “imperfect shells of flesh” are in principle capable of immortality.
Now how did you come up with that?
Genesis tells us that the fleshy body we are born with is no immortal… unless we eat of the Tree of Life. The normal state of the human body is mortality.
So being denied access to the Tree of Life meant Adam only had 9 centuries or so to regret his actions, right?
The human mind (or soul?) becomes reconciled to the divine nature of God through labor, faith and whatever miraculous “poofing” God performs once one’s mortal body dies and our mind (or soul?) enters the elusive tunnel of light.
Paul didn’t know whether we get a brand new fleshy body … or a body made of completely different material… maybe the same substance that angels are made of.
Gnostics thought the only thing that survived death was the “divine spark” that God gave us at birth. I think that’s about as reasonable a scenario as one could ask for.