''Tis the season of pre-authorizations.
Here Irenaeus’ comments:
“The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death.”
“[…] 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 this teaching of Irenaeus, although it does not explicitly mention Infants Baptism, clearly lays the groundwork for this practice:
If infants “are born in sinfulness”, and Baptism means “new birth unto God” and “seal of eternal life”, then Christians should baptize their children.
This is exactly what the Orthodox Christian resource I quoted in a previous post states:
Nothing shows the nature of God’s grace more than infant baptism.
I fully agree to this.
I fully agree to this too:
“Original Sin” does not mean “born with sin ”, otherwise infants died without Baptism would go to hell, what is contrary to the teaching of the Church of all times: Fathers (in particular Augustine), Councils, and Popes.
“Original Sin” means “born lacking Original Grace”, that is: born “with strong propensity to sin” derived from strong selfish evolutionary mechanisms.
In any case Evolution is helping us to unravel the deep meaning hidden in Genesis passages that were not properly understood before.
In this respect the relationship between the Image of God and the Incarnation of God seems paramount to me.
I will be pleased receiving your comments. Let me highlight especially the following two Irenaeus’ quotes:
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.
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.
As we see, Irenaeus endorses the view that God created humans in a state of Original Grace.
Why is this so important?
Suppose God had created humans delivered to the selfish Darwinian tendencies, that is, with strong propensity to sin. This amount to say that God created humans in the state of “need of Redemption”.
On the other hand, as Christians we acknowledge that God decided to send his Son to redeem humans from the state of submission to evolutionary selfishness by dying on the Cross.
Such a God looks like a “capricious God”, who creates humans in state of need of Redemption for the sake of redeeming them.
Irenaeus proposal is a different one:
God created the first humans humans in state of Original Grace.
These first humans (or some of them) sinned against God because they freely decide to reject God’s help.
God wants to redeem the sinners.
To this aim, after the first sin, God creates all humans in the state of need of Redemption.
The cause of this state is obviously the first human sin.
But this state is possible because of God’s redemptive will.
So the state of “need of Redemption” is “God’s happy invention” to give sinners time to atone.
Thank you for your note. I am sorry for the delay. Things did get a bit easier toward Thursday, but I still worked on some extracurricular activities and have been sleeping more because of a virus (on hte mend now!)
I am still puzzled. Why would God transmit a need for redemption to Adam and Eve’s descendants (or contemporaries)?
In Ezekiel, God says pretty clearly that parents would not eat sour grapes and set their children’s teeth on edge (18:2). While that is set in the land of Israel, it still is reasonable not to transmit a lost sense to descendants. It’s not a “felix culpa,” to my understanding.
Regarding the quotes from Irenaeus above, thank you. I have not read much till now.
From what I understand, there is genetic evidence that we are not likely to be genetic descendants (genealogical is possible, but still makes the ethics of moral transmission more unreasonable–for example, why would be consider a descendant of both Black slaves and White slaveowners to bear guilt for slavery? Genetic fallacy seems to be an operating word here). So, Irenaeus and I are operating from different paradigms.
I certainly would see, from being a father, that it is a joy to teach my children as they grow. There is nothing evil about immaturity. We are in a Sunday School class by Dennis Rainey called “The Art of Parenting,” and a good portion of the last session reminded us that a good portion of children’s behavior is simply being immature–crying, throwing tantrums, being imperfect–and does not require punishment. The leaders point out the nature of punishment, even when given, is corrective, not vindictive–followed by reminders (a hug, a vocalized reassurance) that we love them.
Many evangelicals point out that even one sin (which we sometimes mix up with imperfections) is not tolerated by a holy God–and thus, those that commit even one should be justly condemned to Hell for eternity. Yet, God is reputed to have transmitted that imperfection (and inability to avoid sin–for who has ever done so?) to every descendant of Adam.
Perhaps that is the difference between what you are saying (with Irenaeus) and the fundamentalists–that God recognizes the imperfections that we need to learn to leave behind, and that He works with us as a father does. In that case, the threat of eternal conscious torment from one failting seems much less.
If we consider evolutionary tendencies as “imperfections,” then if we have no choice over them, they are not sins–as undesirable as they are. --Or, at least, that’s the understanding I have.
In musing through this, I realize that I don’t know where sin and imperfections part. I don’t even know that we can prove we have free choice (whatever that is–for none of what we choose is done in a vacuum). The impression of responsibility and free choice is a very adaptive delusion, if that is indeed what it is. It seems, however, that in order for society to march on, we have to work with that axiom–that we understand at least some things, and can take enough responsibility to choose and bear consequences.
In doing so, we can at least recognize mitigating circumstances–the evolutionary tendencies that we all have. I should say that I have faith that we have responsibility and something that implies choice–but I don’t know where that is.
In regard to responsibility and repentance, I do appreciate the Catholic Church’s recognition, from what I understand, that God deals with us based on our knowledge and its limitations. That is in stark contrast to some sermons I have heard recently. Could you comment on that aspect, as well?
Regarding baptism–irenaeus does have a different position on this from my understanding. It was my understanding that baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change–though in my case, it was more of a commitment, because I could not say that there was any sort of miraculous change. It demonstrated my commitment to God through Christ, and symbolized the dying to sin. We had it at my church when I was 33 (there’s a long story behind why I was not baptized before, but I grew up on a mission field where that was not emphasized a great deal; my father had grown up, but no longer adhered to, strict “ultradispensationalism,” which said that baptism was for the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth only; but my parents left it up to us to decide when to be baptized).
In this point I fully agree with you. Ezekiel 18 is quite clear:
The sin of the parents is not transmitted to their children.
Notice that this is totally acknowledged by the traditional Christian teaching about “Original Sin” as well. Otherwise we would have been taught that infants who die after birth are damned to go to hell, something the Church Fathers never have claimed.
So the transmitted “Original sin” does not mean a “sin” I am accountable for like I am accountable for a transgression I personally do. It rather means a state of “lack of Grace” and therefore “strong propensity to sin”. Such a state means also “to be in need of Redemption”: You need Jesus Christ’s Grace in order to “growth” and reach the maturity necessary to enter eternal life.
Ezekiel 18 states:
23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
30 … I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Even after sin, God wants the sinner to repent. But this requires the sinner acknowledges himself as a sinner and asks for forgiveness.
Genesis 3 eloquently shows how difficult this is: Everyone refuses to acknowledge him/herself as responsible for the evil, and tries to pass the blame to the others.
If God had permitted that people on earth may think to be righteous, he would have provoked that everyone thinks to be unimpeachable, and stimulated the sinners to not repent, in contradiction with God’s declared redemptive will. For this reason:
God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:32).
This explains why the “state of need of Redemption” (unsuitably called “Original sin”) is really a “felix culpa” , a “happy invention” of God.
Randy, I will comment with pleasure.
But to do it suitably, I would be thankful to know what was asserted in “some sermons” you “have recently heard”.
Thank you for your note. I am sorry–I realized that I was rather critical of brothers in Christ in my note; I should re phrase that. I mainly want to say that I appreciate the Catholic Church’s attention to justice.
There is a good discussion between Randal Rauser and the Catholic apologist, Trent Horn, about that here, that reminds me of that. I appreciate your thoughts.