Original sin

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captainkidd

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I have a question that has bothered me for years. Maybe some of you can help me out with it.

A human being never takes an action unless he is inclined to do so. In other words, the will never chooses an action unless the intellect perceives it as good. Sin occurs when the intellect, infected with concupiscence, perceives evil as good, and the weak will succumbs. The Church teaches that concupiscence is a consequence of original sin and that, prior to the fall, man was in a state of original justice with his intellect and will free from concupiscence and in perfect harmony with reason. However, if this is the case, then Adam and Eve could not have chosen to sin, because their intellects, being free from concupiscence, would not have perceived sin as good; thus, they would not have been inclined to choose evil. In order for them to sin, they would have to have been inclined to do so, which means that they would have perceived evil as good; they would have to have been concupiscent prior to committing the original sin. Thus, it seems that concupiscence was a cause of the original sin, not a result of it.
 
True that Adam and Eve sinned because they mistakenly perceived evil to be good. However, according to the story in Genesis, Satan tricked them into believing this. Still, it was a choice they made. Without the capacity to make this (wrong) choice, they could not possibly have had free will.
 
First, I would say that concupisence is not so much the ability to choose “evil” over good, but rather the tendency to exaggerate the good of one thing over another in a disordered way. All things, all actions, necessarily have a “good” component to them because they exist and occur within creation, which is good. If I steal an apple to eat, that act has the good elements of self preservation (I need to eat) and self-actualization (I exert my individuality by my very act). However, this act is “evil” because I choose to place the priority of those goods above the good of “do not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s”, or more simply, love. Thus the act I have committed, taking and eating an apple, is evil because a third act, stealing from another, has been introduced which disorders the act. This ability to disorder good is called concupisence.

Prior to the fall, this ability did not exist, because we were perfect creations which understood God in light of reason and we knew inherently the right order of things. This does not mean, however, that Adam and Eve did not possess free will. They possessed the ability to reject God, or more specifically, to disobey Him. They were individuals with their own faculties and thus were capable of choosing to do something forbidden by God. They understood that eating the fruit was a good act, but was subordinate to the decree that they were not to eat it. They understood that “becoming like gods” would be good, but was subordinate to the fact that God had commanded them not to. Thus they knew it was wrong, but did it anyway, and committed the first mortal sin.
 
Well said, Dr Colossus.

I would only add that I’m not sure I agree with Captainkidd’s statement, “…the will never chooses an action unless the intellect perceives it as good.”

It seems to me the evil action may indeed be chosen, not because the intellect perceives it as good, but because the desires of the flesh can be stronger than the will. Therefore the intellect can know it is wrong, but the will still chooses the wrong.
 
The problem with the terms “good” and “evil” are that they can be applied to so many different things. I don’t know if it’s what CaptainKidd had in mind, but I think the statement would be accurate if it read “the will never chooses an action unless the intellect perceives it as beneficial .”
 
Concupiscence is the internal predisposition to choose sometimes the lesser of two goods and in doing so commit sin. Because Adam and Eve did not have concupiscence just means that their temptation would not have arisen internally as those of us with concupiscence are sometimes tempted. But Adam and Eve could still be tempted externally (as they were by Satan) and commit sin. Christ was obviously without concupiscence and yet he was still tempted by external forces (Satan).

Anyway, not sure this helps but, …whatever.
 
Sin is mysterious. How could Adam and Eve actually choose to reject God? But it’s no more mysterious than the angels who chose to reject God. After all, they had no bodies, no emotions, to assist in their temptation.

I think the key in both cases is that God created us as persons, as creatures who can use the word I of ourselves, and decide that we don’t like the fact that God can tell us what to do. The temptation was (and is) to ‘become like gods.’ It seems that temptation always remains with us–Adam & Eve or fallen mankind: “I’ll do it my way, thank you.”

JimG
 
They understood that “becoming like gods” would be good, but was subordinate to the fact that God had commanded them not to. Thus they knew it was wrong, but did it anyway, and committed the first mortal sin.
I have problems with your moral analysis, but in any case, they could not have made that choice unless their nature had already been corrupted.
I’m not sure I agree with Captainkidd’s statement, “…the will never chooses an action unless the intellect perceives it as good.”
See Summa Theologiae I-II, a. 8, q. 1.
It seems to me the evil action may indeed be chosen, not because the intellect perceives it as good, but because the desires of the flesh can be stronger than the will. Therefore the intellect can know it is wrong, but the will still chooses the wrong.
The will never chooses something that the intellect does not perceive as good, but the intellect can convince itself that something evil is good. This, of course, is known as rationalization.
But Adam and Eve could still be tempted externally (as they were by Satan) and commit sin.
Still, it took an act of the will on their part to actually commit the sin. Furthermore, if all that resulted from the fall was the ability to be tempted internally, that’s not much of a corruption.
The temptation was (and is) to ‘become like gods.’ It seems that temptation always remains with us–Adam & Eve or fallen mankind: “I’ll do it my way, thank you.”
If Adam and Eve were in a state of original justice prior to the fall, then they would not have perceived the temptation as good, because their intellects, being in perfect harmony with reason, would have recognized the evil for what it was.
 
captainkidd

Adam and Eve possessed holy innocence before the fall. All that Adam and Eve knew before they fell was the good. They knew the goodness of creation, which God declared to be good. They knew the goodness of each other, which God declared to be very good. And they had the preternatural gift of infused knowledge, which allowed them possess an elevated knowledge of the greatest good of all, God.

Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil before they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Which brings up the question that you are raising, i.e. since Adam and Eve possessed the preternatural gift of lack of concupiscence, and since they lacked all knowledge of evil, how then, did Satan tempt Adam and Eve?

Satan tempted Adam and Eve by asking them to use their great gift of free will to choose between two goods, and to choose the lesser good over the greater good. Adam and Eve knew self-love, which is the lesser good, and they knew the love of God, which is the greater good. Adam and Eve chose the love of self above the love of God, and as a result they acquired inordinate self-love, which is the root of all sin. This is the same sin that Lucifer committed that caused him to be cast out of Heaven.

Jesus reminds us that we must first love God, and then love the created when he quotes two laws of the Torah as the summation of all the laws of the Torah:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might
Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Leviticus 19:18

If the order of the two great commandments is reversed, (love of neighbor before love of God), we will end up with a disordered society, which is what original sin brought into existence.
 
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Matt16_18:
Adam and Eve chose the love of self above the love of God, and as a result they acquired inordinate self-love, which is the root of all sin. This is the same sin that Lucifer committed that caused him to be cast out of Heaven.
Did Adam and Eve sin in choosing the lesser good over the greater good? If they did, then that would have required a corrupt nature in order to make that choice. (In other words, wasn’t it necessary for them to have inordinate self-love in order to choose that over the love of God?) If they did not, then they were not at fault, and thus there was no original sin.

As for the fallen angels, that is a corollary of this issue. If all the angels were created with perfect natures, then how was Satan able to choose something sinful?
 
Chris W:
Well said, Dr Colossus.

I would only add that I’m not sure I agree with Captainkidd’s statement, “…the will never chooses an action unless the intellect perceives it as good.”

It seems to me the evil action may indeed be chosen, not because the intellect perceives it as good, but because the desires of the flesh can be stronger than the will. Therefore the intellect can know it is wrong, but the will still chooses the wrong.
Every deliberate act of man is percived by that man as “good.” “Good” as used in that statement is not restricted to moral good. A man who deliberately commits an act he knows to be morally bad is doing it because he perceives that the act is to his advantage (good). A murderer kills for his own good; for revenge to make him feel good; for greed because he feels more money is to his good, etc. etc.
 
captainkidd

Did Adam and Eve sin in choosing the lesser good over the greater good? If they did, then that would have required a corrupt nature in order to make that choice.

Absolutely not! You are making an error that is typical of Calvinists - i.e. that God is the ultimate source of all evil. God created Lucifer, Adam and Eve perfect, because God can’t do any act that is less than perfection. Lucifer, Adam and Eve were created without corruption and with the glorious gift of free will. Lucifer, Adam and Eve had real freedom, and they freely chose to be disobedient - their choice for disobedience cannot be blamed on God. God’s perfect will was for Adam and Eve to be obedient, and God cannot have created Adam and Eve with a will to be disobedient, as that would mean that God’s will is in conflict with itself – an impossibility.

If God created Adam and Eve with corruption (as you are asserting) then God is indeed the ultimate source of all evil. If God is the ultimate source of evil, then the only difference between worshipping God, or worshipping Satan, is that worshipping Satan would be the lesser evil, since the even evil of Satan would be ultimately rooted in the corruption that God infested Satan with when he created him.

God is light and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
James 1: 13-15

And the LORD said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
Job 40:1-2
 
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Matt16_18:
If God created Adam and Eve with corruption (as you are asserting) then God is indeed the ultimate source of all evil.
First of all, I’m not asserting anything; I’m simply asking a question. Second, God is responsible for evil insofar as he allows it to exist. Third, your belief that God is not the source of evil does not explain how Adam and Eve could have perceived evil as good without having concupiscence.
 
captainkidd

God is responsible for evil insofar as he allows it to exist.

God allows me to commit sin. That doesn’t mean that God is responsible for the sins that I commit.

… your belief that God is not the source of evil does not explain how Adam and Eve could have perceived evil as good without having concupiscence

I never said that Adam and Eve perceived “evil as good” before they sinned. Adam and Ever were created without spot or stain in a state of holy innocence, and because of this, Adam and Eve couldn’t possibly have perceived “evil as good” since they had no knowledge of evil before they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

What Adam and Eve perceived were two goods; a lesser good (self-love) and a greater good (love of God). They chose to elevate the lesser good above the greater good, and that is how they acquired the knowledge of evil. It was a choice that they were free to make because they possessed the gift of free will. By freely choosing self-love above love of God, they committed a very great sin, a sin that brought about the fall of all creation. By misusing their free will, Adam and Eve became infected with concupiscence - a corruption of the soul that they passed along to all of their progeny (except Mary).

It is to have the cart before the horse to say that God created Adam and Eve with the defect of concupiscence. Adam and Eve were created without this defect, and they brought this corruption into themselves by abusing the glorious gift of free will.
 
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Matt16_18:
They chose to elevate the lesser good above the greater good, and that is how they acquired the knowledge of evil.
But wouldn’t they have had to be concupiscent in order to make this choice?
 
captainkidd

But wouldn’t they have had to be concupiscent in order to make this choice?

No, they would only need to possess free will. 😛

“If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines - would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for his higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man an a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II, Chapter 3

“Freedom is the power of the will to act or not to act, to act this or that way; whereas it is the characteristic of necessary causes, as animals and inanimate beings, to produce their effects by an intrinsic necessity. Freedom of the will is a consequence of intelligence, and as such the most precious gift of man, an endowment which he can never lose without annihilating his own nature. Man must of necessity be free in every state of life, actual or possible, whether that state be the purely natural (status purœ naturœ), or the state of original justice in paradise (status justitiœ originalis), or the state of fallen nature (status naturœ lapsœ), or the state of regeneration (status naturœ reparatœ). Were man to be deprived of freedom of will, he would necessarily degenerate in his nature and sink to the level of the animal.

Molinism, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X
 
The best book I’ve ever read concerning free will, the fall, and original sin was Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. You might want to read this one. It is really good.
 
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Matt16_18:
No, they would only need to possess free will. 😛
I understand that they had free will. But if they were in a state of original justice, with their intellects in perfect harmony with the truth and with no inclination to sin, then they would not have chosen a lesser good over a greater one.

Wasn’t their choice of a lesser good over a greater good owing to some defect in their natures? How was their choice different from our sins?
 
captainkidd

… if they were in a state of original justice, with their intellects in perfect harmony with the truth and with no inclination to sin, then they would not have chosen a lesser good over a greater one.

How can you say that? That is exactly what they did. Their free will gave them the ability to choose love of self over love of God, and they chose love of self. It was an irrational choice, and that is why you can’t understand why they chose to be disobedient. And there is no point in trying to understand an action that is irrational, because irrational actions are by definition beyond comprehension. If Adam and Ever were acting rationally, they would have chosen love of God above love of self. Their incomprehensible choice for self-love is part of the mystery of iniquity. We will never understand why this choice was made, even when we are in Heaven. An irrational choice will always be irrational and beyond comprehension.
  • Wasn’t their choice of a lesser good over a greater good owing to some defect in their natures?*
No, Adam and Eve were created perfect. God is not the cause of sin.
  • How was their choice different from our sins?*
We are born with the defects of concupiscence and ignorance because of the Fall, whereas Adam and Ever possessed the preternatural gift of freedom from concupiscence and with the preternatural gift of infused knowledge. God takes our fallen state into account in his subjective judgment of the sins we commit.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34
 
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