Monday 3 May 2021

Why did God make Men so selfish? (An explanation from William Arkle.)

It is a legitimate question, I think, to ask why God made Men with such a strong predisposition to selfishness? 

The usual Christian response - to point at The Fall of Adam and Eve, and the propagation of Original Sin - does not suffice, by my understanding. Since this merely kicks the can back to the question of why God made A&E the way He did; and made the world such that they fell; and that this sin was then transmitted to all Mankind.

I came across a neat explanation in a recorded talk given by William Arkle in (I think) the early 1990s (which is not publicly available). 

The basic framework is that God embarked upon creation with the intent of enabling Men to become full Sons and Daughters: that is, grown-up divine friends who would become participators in the work of creation; or co-creators working within-God's primary creation.

For this to be worth doing, each Man needs to bring something unique to himself to the work of creation - something that God does not have and could not contribute. 

This is what happens by our mortal life followed by death and our resurrected life in Heaven - should we choose to accept this gift from Jesus Christ (willingly embracing the necessary conditions)   

Therefore (by Arkle's account, modified somewhat by me): 

God chose to create Men with a strong sense of self - even to the point of being naturally selfish (such as most young children ) - and in a world (i.e. this mortal life) that would often sustain that strong sense of self

God's hope was that some men at least (all ideally, but in practice only some) would arrive at a point of totally isolation of the self, total self-ish-ness of perspective; without any compelled belief in God and with no perceived obligation to the divine plan... 

Then - wholly voluntarily and from positive and loving motives - would make the choice to join-with God in his work of divine creation. 

So, innate selfishness was a necessary baseline for Men; but God's hope was that those Men capable of love would come to realize the futility of this selfishness; and would willingly accept Jesus's gift of resurrection into an eternal, wholly-loving and creative life in which our self is voluntarily fully-aligned-with God's creative motivations. 

This strategy can be more clearly understood by considering the alternative that God made Men wholly unselfish, without even a distinct self, and already-immersed in God's creative motivations. 

I think it can be seen that such a creature would be useless as a divine companion in the work of creation. 

This alternative is indeed, pretty much, the world view of Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism - which regard the self as an intrinsic evil (or illusion) and strive to extirpate the self; and to join human-beingness wholly with the divine purpose.

For a Christian, by Arkle's account; this mortal world is a vital place of learning - without which we cannot become the both self-centred and loving-creative companions that God desires. 

In complete contrast; we can see that 'Eastern religion' (pretty much) regards this world as an illusion that must be overcome for us to lose the false sense of self, and re-assimilate with the divine purposes.  

Anyway - the main point I intend to convey here; is that this is an explanation of why Men are made the way they (nearly-always) are, and this mortal earthly life the way it is; and to show how this makes sense and is indeed necessary -- given the assumptions I hold regarding what God is intending by creation, and what Jesus made possible by Heaven. 


Ron Tomlinson said...

It seems to me that I'm being *tested* in my dreams now; it happens quite often. Some tests I pass, some I fail. The ones I fail are offered again other dreams. They're opportunities to choose differently from choices made in the past. It wouldn't make much sense unless one is being prepared *for* something, perhaps urgently. Decisions made in dreams are just as real as decision made when awake -- insofar as they effect character development. Anyhow, it produces a sense of 'passing through' the world, which in some ways is liberating. For example, I don't feel the need to make continual home improvements, beyond the basics, as so many of my countrymen seem to.

Wes S said...

I wonder if this could be a reason that Eastern societies with Eastern religions have always been an abundant population? That it's difficult to 'develop' many souls for God in such a religious worldview, who would choose *not* to dissolve themselves into the cosmic oneness. It would thus require many more souls (or iterations of souls, if any aspect of reincarnation believed in Eastern societies has merit) than in other societies.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wes - My basic understanding is that God places each *individual* mortal soul in the best possible situation for his own needs and wishes.

At a very general level, I would suppose that Eastern societies with Eastern religions *were* the best places for the people there (bearing in mind that Eastern religions *function* extremely differently in the East than when imported to the West).

It may be that in pre-mortal life there were a lot of souls, perhaps a majority, who preferred not to prepare for Heaven - but who instead wanted 'Nirvana' or to have several or many reincarnations; and that these souls were placed into a situation that *historically* catered best for these needs.

Because - while God wants grown-up Sons and Daughters as co-creators, perhaps only a minority of pre-mortal Men wanted this for themselves - so I would assume that God provided other alternatives for those who 'aimed lower' than co-divinity.

However, as things have become recently (the End Times), it seems to me that the alternatives are closing-off, or already have closed off; and alternatives that were possible may not now be possible - or be very rarely possible.

So, things are apparently reducing down to just the two options - Heaven or Hell. In other words, those who reject Heaven seem to be embracing Hell (ie. the materialist agenda of value inversion - which actively-hates God, Jesus, and Christianity - mostly implicitly and denies but increasingly explicitly and overt). This process is not complete, but advancing quickly.

That -it seems - is the nature of the End Times.

Joseph A. said...

"Then - wholly voluntarily and from positive and loving motives - would make the choice to join-with God in his work of divine creation."

This strikes me as very Russian thinking. Very interesting. A lesson that I've always remembered from reading Lewis is where he notes that our strengths and weaknesses come from the same character disposition . . . which can develop into virtues or vices . . . aids for salvation or stumbling blocks. That strikes me as very true, and it seems to be a basic design feature in the world. Your take on human selfishness is similar . . . the same human trait allows for free cooperation with God and for Satanic solipsism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joseph - I think what I am attempting to communicate is probably something different from your comparisons - I've known those things for a long time; but the idea that God is building-from an innate selfishness/ self-regard towards divinity, that self-centredness is the best *basis* for what God eventually wants, is something new and different for me.

Francis Berger said...

"So, innate selfishness was a necessary baseline for Men; but God's hope was that those Men capable of love would come to realize the futility of this selfishness; and would willingly accept Jesus's gift of resurrection into an eternal, wholly-loving and creative life in which our self is voluntarily fully-aligned-with God's creative motivations."

Yes, it appears this form of selfish autonomy was necessary, but that it should have led to the willing acceptance of resurrection. That it hasn't leads me to believe that the wrong choice stems from a misguided understanding of freedom - that accepting Jesus's gift was somehow a surrender of rather than a massive expansion of freedom. Dostoevsky touches on this in his frequent allusions to men being unable to understand, let alone bear the increased freedom Christ offers.

The wrong choice also signals the end of that phase of autonomy. Consciousness is now regressing toward slavery consciousness and its limited interactions with the objectified world.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - Maybe it is a failed understanding - but I think people really do want different things. How much of this is due to the corrupting effect of early choices, and how much to innate disposition probably varies.

CS Lewis, in the Great Divorce, was very insightful about how some people really hold fast to a particular sin, just will not give it up; will sacrifice the world for it.

Nowadays I see this most often with resentment - people cherish some resentment (could be against a person, or a group - or very abstract) and this becomes something like the core of their being. Such people don't seem to want what resurrected life in Heaven has to offer - specifically because they would have to give-up that resentment.

Joseph A. said...

FB: Yes, I was thinking of Dostoevsky, too.

BC: I see what you mean. Instead of a common source for our best and worst traits, your (and Arkle's) argument highlights the counter-intuitive aspect of God's design in what is commonly seen as a bad thing (in this case, human selfishness). Where else does that same divine trick show up? You could see it with bodies . . . outside of certain traditions (LDS comes to mind), spirits -- the members of the "bodiless host" -- are reckoned greater and more noble than incarnate beings such as ourselves. And yet, Verbum caro factum est. Maybe, there is some inherent superiority in having a body, and we, the mediators of all creation (St. Maximus), can only fulfill our cosmic and divinely-ordained role by being embodied beings. It's interesting to me that the Mormons focus on this, whereas it is often ignored or even rejected among Christians, especially in the West. I don't really understand the significance of having a body -- or even what it means, fundamentally, but it's a key aspect of our nature and, therefore, probably very important in the divine economy.

Perhaps relatedly, at least in a making lemonade out of lemons sort of way, wise Christians have understood our mortality, our individual insufficiency, and our ability (tendency!) to suffer as examples of divine beneficence. They certainly provide powerful opportunities to learn.

You brought up LOTR again today in another post. Isn't there a subtle theme in Tolkien about death's being a special mystery (and gift?) for men -- a way to leave Arda not even available to the Eldar? A voyage even more wondrous than sailing to the undying lands?

Ilúvatar's ways are not our ways.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joseph - I have written several posts on this important question of incarnation/ bodies versus spirits - and that (except for Mormons) this matter has been (astonishingly!) almost ignored by Christians despite that Jesus is incarnated and resurrected, and the Christian offer of life after death is explicitly by resurrection.

Instead, Christian theology has all but explained-this-away, by emphasizing the *differences* between mortal and resurrected incarnation, or by talking so vaguely and abstractly (or double-negatively) about the matter, that people remain perpetually confused.

It seems to be important that Christians should be able to put forward clear and simple explanations - or at least suggestions - about why, and in what ways, bodies are better.

Francis Berger said...

@ Bruce -I don't think it's a failed understanding at all and the point about holding fast to sin strikes right at the heart of the matter as far as I'm concerned. People reject redemption because they want the freedom to to believe their sins and not really sins. This rejection also entails repentance. People do not want the "burden" of acknowledging sin as sin, nor do they want the "burden" of repenting sin.

None are free from sin, but part of the increased freedom Jesus offers is the acknowledgement of sin and the gift of repentance, which frees us from or lifts the "burden" of sin from our shoulders. This frees up a tremendous amount of spiritual energy that can be harnessed for good purposes.

Your point about the objectification of the world is spot on in this regard. At its core, sin is the objectification. Unacknowledged, un-repented sin objectifies Creation. Consciousness regresses and alienation increases to the point that very people who desired to be autonomous and free of sin end up becoming utterly enslaved and ruled by the objectified, externalized, deterministic world, thereby surrendering the spiritual resources required for true freedom with God. In a nutshell, they become incapable of spiritual learning in mortal life - and yes, this seems to be an active choice!

At least that is how I understand things at the moment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - Great comment, thanks!