This is very interesting, Dr Suarez. Thank you for your thoughts. It makes a different characterization of sin from what I grew up with (a rather hellfire and brimstone evangelical one):
- God hates every sin–even the smallest intentional thought–and even one is enough to separate us eternally from Him, to everlasting fire.
- It’s because of this sin and our plight of getting our just desserts that God sent his Son to the world to suffer the worst death imaginable, to take our punishment on Himself, so that we can go to Heaven and not be punished for eternity.
- We are born “dirty, rotten sinners” and it’s only God’s gift that improves on that.
I have trouble with equating this view of sin with being born into such a state. If God chose to transmit an inability to be perfect (thus, an inability to avoid Hell for eternity) to us, then is He not also the author of suffering and sin?
I don’t think this way any longer; believing that God is more like a father who guides us from incompleteness to perfection with love. Also, his punishment is corrective, not punitive.
So, the definition of sin in the above-is it so reprehensible; or is it more as I’ve heard Irenaeus having been said to describe it–part of the growing pains of any child, and to be viewed by God only as those parts of growth?
I welcome your thoughts on this. Thank you.
Thanks for your interest. I meet with pleasure your request.
Here some quotations from Irenaeus in The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching relevant to the question you address:
11.[…] for (as) the image of God was man formed and set on the earth. […] Moreover he was free and self-controlled , being made by God for this end, that he might rule all those things that were upon the earth. […]
22.[…] For He made man the image of God; and the image of God is the Son, after whose image man was made: and for this cause He appeared in the end of the times that He might show the image (to be) like unto Himself.
32.God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God ;
11.He prepared him a place better than this world, excelling in air, beauty, light, food, plants, fruit, water, and all other necessaries of life, and its name is Paradise . And so fair and good was this Paradise, that the Word of God continually resorted thither, and walked and talked with the man, figuring beforehand the things that should be in the future, (namely) that He should dwell with him and talk with him, and should be with men, teaching them righteousness. But man was a child, not yet having his understanding perfected; wherefore also he was easily led astray by the deceiver.
14.And Adam and Eve—for that is the name of the woman—were naked, and were not ashamed; for there was in them an innocent and childlike mind, and it was not possible for them to conceive and understand anything of that which by wickedness through lusts and shameful desires is born in the soul. For they were at that time entire, preserving their own nature; since they had the breath of life which was breathed on their creation: and, while this breath remains in its place and power, it has no comprehension and understanding of things that are base. And therefore they were not ashamed, kissing and embracing each other in purity after the manner of children.
15.And He set him certain limitations, so that, if he should keep the commandment of God, he should ever remain such as he was, that is to say, immortal ; but, if he should not keep it, he should become mortal and be dissolved to earth from whence his formation had been taken.
16.This commandment the man kept not, but was disobedient to God, being led astray by the “angel” who, for the great gifts of God which He had given to man, was envious and jealous of him,
and both brought himself to nought and made man sinful, persuading him to disobey the commandment of God. So the angel, becoming by his falsehood the author and originator of sin, himself was struck down, having offended against God , and man he caused to be cast out from Paradise.
16.And, because through the guidance of his disposition he apostatized and departed from God, he was called Satan, according to the Hebrew word; that is, Apostate: a but he is also called Slanderer.
17.And when they were put out of Paradise, Adam and his wife. Eve fell into many troubles of anxious grief, going about with sorrow and toil and lamentation in this world. For under the beams of this sun man tilled the earth, and it put forth thorns and thistles, the punishment of sin.
3.“[…] we have received baptism for the remission of sins, […] And that this baptism is the seal of eternal life, and is the new birth unto God, that we should no longer be the sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and perpetual God”.
In my view the message Irenaeus convey here for us today is the following:
Man was created in the Image of God, with great gifts and free from the wickedness derived from lusts and shameful desires (i.e.: from any propensity to sin derived from selfish evolutionary tendencies). In this state of original grace (Paradise) man was immortal. (Notice that Irenaeus does not say ``animals were immortal”).
The “angel” (Satan) was jealous of man because God decided to become human flesh in order man can become like God. And from the context it follows that Satan was especially jealous and envious of the virgin from which God decided to be born, since this woman was supposed to be the highest creature, higher as the highest “angel” (see Revelation 12). The very thrust of Irenaeus theology is that Incarnation is the aim of Creation (of Evolution can we today add): Even if man had not sinned God would have incarnated.
Tempted by Satan (the author and originator of sin) man was disobedient to God.
Contrarily to Satan, man was not struck down but cast out from Paradise. In this state humans are born in a state of sinfulness, imprisoned by sin. This is reminiscent of Romans 11:32: For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. The state of sinfulness we are born in is something happy after all because it is a state of “need of Redemption”: Although caused by the first sin in history, it is mainly a “happy” invention of God’s redemptive will .
Actually it is not fitting to refer to this state after the Fall as “sin”. After the Fall (the first sin in human history) humans are not born with sin but with strong propensity to sin i. e.: wickedness through lusts and shameful desires due to the lack of Original Grace.
Baptism, “new birth unto God” to “eternal life” transforms the “punishment of sin” (anxious grief, sorrow, toil and lamentation in this world) and even the propensity to sin into “growing pains of any child“, pains accompanying the transformation of our flesh into Christ’s flesh, to be “sons of the eternal and perpetual God”.