Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Fall - what does it mean?

The Fall can only be understood in terms of the purpose of mortal life - including the question of whether there is a purpose to mortal life. That must be sorted-out first - and only then can there be an understanding of what is meant by The Fall in Christian scripture and theology.

My understanding of mortal life is that it comes between a spiritual pre-mortal life, and a resurrected post-mortal life (this is standard Mormon theology). The purpose of this incarnated mortal existence has been clarified for me by the work of William Arkle - and is that God (in fact our Heavenly Parents) is aiming to nurture and educate other gods like himself, to raise up Men to the same level as himself; or rather, to allow Men the experiences necessary to educate him to fuller divinity - if each Man chooses that path for himself.

All this is motivated by love - and the ultimate aim is a society of divine persons related (but not united) by love. Because the aim is love, this is an opt-in situation - we cannot be compelled to love.

So the purpose of our mortal and incarnated life is related to this long term goal. We began as immaterial spirits, and at that point were were 'immersed' in God's love. Our aim for the future is to be incarnated immortals each of whom is fully divine, and not immersed in God's love but participating in a fully loving relationship.

The Fall is related to the fact that we move from immersion to relationship via a state of separation from God. First we come out of the immersion of our pre-mortal state, and we are separated from God - then we much choose to develop towards a full loving relationship with God - not inside love but as a love between two autonomous divine beings. It is indeed a Fall out of Love - and therefore, because Love is the primary Good of reality, it is a Fall from a better state to a worse. But it is a necessary transition if the higher form of relational love is desired. .

The Fall represents this separation from God - which is en route to a higher divinity but is a hazardous situation because we are both free (we have agency, we have choice, we can act from within ourselves uncaused) and separate from God. Therefore we can choose not to continue towards divinity, and the fact of separation enables us to deny the reality and goodness of this divine scheme of life - we can choose to deny that the goal of loving divine entities (a perfect family in Heaven) is true, or we can deny that it is good, or we can choose to reject it.

So The Fall is necessary to spiritual progression beyond that of our pre-mortal selves, it is necessary to move from a passive immersion in love to an active, chosen love between full free divinities - but mortal life creates the possibility of getting 'stuck' in the state of separation, and the danger of rejecting God's plan.

Indeed, this situation is almost inevitable given the conditions of mortal life - it is almost inevitable that we would fail to make the right choices to make the necessary spiritual progression, it is almost inevitable that we would end up rejecting the aim of a fully divine loving relationship in the post-mortal life.

So, it was necessary for Jesus Christ to intervene in this scheme in order to undo the ill effects of The Fall, so that we can get the benefits of The Fall without the lethal drawback - if we so choose. I understand the Atonement of Christ as being the creation of a situation of default theosis - that mortal life provides benefits of experience which are retained, and the harms of mortal life are simply left behind at death - then we are offered, as a gift, the perfected life as basis for post-mortal existence.

Because we are free agents, we must choose to accept this gift - but that is all we have to do. The gift is handed-us, we merely need to accept it. Rejection of the gift is an active process of pushing it away, or of turning away - a chosen refusal to accept.

So mortal life was made a fail-safe experience, by the work of Christ. However, even though it is fail-safe - mortal life is still risky, and still requires a choice to accept 'salvation' - and since we are separated from God and are in an in-between state, some are likely to deny and/ or reject the gift. Some apparently (as with Eastern religions) take a look at the incarnate life and reject it, preferring to return (for at least a while) to the psychological state of pre-mortal spirit life: immersion in the love of God.

Others - and we see this all around us - reject the reality of God's creation; deny that there was a creation; deny the reality of God; deny the goodness of God's plan; deny the primacy of Love... and so on. They are free to do this - and they will (presumably) opt-out after their death - will not participate in the loving relationship of post-mortal life. They prefer to remain in the state of separation - without moving on to the state of relationships. In other words they reject salvation and choose what is termed damnation.

Since Men are free this choice cannot be prevented, It is what such people want - and although they are mistaken, they get what they want. So for these people, The Fall is a permanent separation from God and a permanent exile from Love.

So, by his incarnation, death and resurrection - Jesus undid The Fall in its bad aspects, and thereby we are enabled to achieve a higher state than we had before The Fall - all the advantages, and the disadvantages made merely temporary.

However, we currently live with these disadvantages - in our mortal lives.


Thomas said...

It is a very interesting and beautiful explanation. It answers both the innate feeling of imperfection in this world, the fall, and why we know that things could or should be better - but without falling into the view that everything in this life is essentially wrong, or broken, until after death.

Part of me definitely wants to believe what you write (in this and other matters), but because it contradicts orthodoxy in many regards, I fear giving it intellectual assent. Trying to be a traditional orthodox Christian feels perhaps especially difficult now - the leadership is apparently embracing secular liberalism, but most of the traditional literature is extremely pessimistic and, perhaps, demotivating about life itself!

Rich said...


I am wondering if you have any thoughts about why Christ was necessary? Do you see the situation being that God was experimenting and did not foresee just how many souls he would lose and thus needed to adjust? Or that Christ was in the plan all along? Or that we all have the potential to be Christ and so Christ could have come at any point in our history?

Further, do you think it possible that once Christ came it opened up the door for reincarnation to allow all those before Christ to have a second opportunity to choose to have the relationship with God?


Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - I have blogged many times on my thoughts about the necessity of Christ. I think that Christ was necessary is basic to Mere Christianity - but in what sense he was necessary is a matter of disagreement.

My view is that Christ was part of the plan all along. What he did included making possible the resurrection (eternal incarnate life) of all the children of God, as well as himself.

That seems straightforward to me - the more difficult thing to explain is that he 'took away the sins of the world' - since I think the idea Original Sin is untrue, a misunderstanding based on using Classical Greek Philosophy as the metaphysical framework for Christianity (at least OS is untrue in the way most people have asserted it).

So my understanding of Christ's work is related to making salvation a 'default' state, a gift - on the basis of repentance and acceptance of the gift. (Before Christ there was an era when all dead spirits had to wait for Christ's resurrection (although unaware of the fact they were waiting), before they could themselves be resurrected - this was the era of Hades/ Sheol - the dark afterlife of disembodied, demented, unaware souls.)

Christ's work was once, and for all - so there is no sense in anybody else being or becoming Christ. The point in history he came was not fixed (e.g. Mary might have declined to be his mother and some other person would then have had to agree to the arrangement).

I think reincarnation is not a necessary part of God's plan. I believe it does happen - but only to specific people, for specific purposes, and probably rarely. On the other hand, I think tha we can say that some people were reincarnates (with a high degree of probability)- for example Rudolf Steiner and William Arkle, who probably volunteered to return as spiritual teachers.