Faith in the Third Millennium

2. In the Image of God (15)

Pascal pointed out that the Christian faith "seeks little more than to establish these two truths: the corruption of nature and its redemption through Jesus Christ". Paul based our belief in the corruption of human nature on the story in Genesis of Adam's fall. From this premise the later Church, especially Augustine, derived the dogma of original sin. The chaotic symphony of beliefs that accompany the story of Adam's fall lacks an authoritative score and deafens the ear of reason with its noise. What we hear is that our descendants and their bright high-tech peers must be told that a just God is holding us responsible for our ancestors debt - an injustice that we wouldn't tolerate in human society. We're told to say that the Omnipotent Fashioner of the Universe has a potent rival called Satan. And despite being fashioned in the image of God, we must assert that man is evil to the core.

Incredible ideas are advanced about the story of Adam and Eve by otherwise intelligent men, yet this ancient Ebionite statement demonstrates some of the defects in the orthodox belief:
    "Our father (Adam) was ignorant of nothing; since, indeed, even the law publicly current, though charging him with the crime of ignorance for the sake of the unworthy, sends to him those desirous of knowledge, saying, 'Ask your father, and he will tell you'" (citing Deut. 32:7).
    "He himself being the only true Prophet, fittingly gave names to each animal, according to the merits of its nature, as having made it. For if he gave a name to anyone, that was also the name of that which was made, being given by him who made it (Gen. 2:20). How, then, had he still need to partake of a tree, that he might know what is good and evil, if he was commanded not to eat of it? But this senseless men believe, who think that a reasonless beast was more powerful than the God who made all these things".
    "And I do not think that he will obtain pardon, though he be misled by spurious scripture to think dreadful things against the father of all. For he... insults the image... belonging to the eternal King... But then, he says, the Divine Spirit left him when he sinned. In that case the Spirit sinned along with him; and how can he escape peril who says this? But perhaps he received the Spirit after he sinned. Then it is given to the unrighteous; and where is justice?"

Led by the Prince of darkness (16) evil supposedly battles against the forces of good led by the God Who "is Light" (17) - as though darkness was something other than the absence of light that it is capable of opposing light. Countless atrocities have branched from the orthodox belief in evil as an independent force. To help God battle Satan's influence Christians have purified Europe and America of 200,000 "witches" with the executioners fire, undertaken Crusades to bloody the Muslim heretics who falsely worshipped only One God, baptized 6 million Jews and other minorities in a wave of woes and death, and suppressed science, art and philosophy. If these are the fruits of the belief can the tree they branch from be wholesome or true? Jesus demonstrated His teaching that we should turn the other cheek to those who do us evil. The pretense used to evade His spiritual teaching is that we must oppose the Devil. The belief in evil as an independent force is nothing less than hate for man masquerading as the love of God. When St. Peter was asked why men sin - rather than ascribing it to an evil power - he offered this wonderful explanation:
"It is because they are ignorant... For this reason they, having lust... for the continuance of life, gratify it in any accidental way... Wherefore God is not evil, Who has rightly placed lust within man, that there may be a continuance of life, but they are most impious who have used the good of lust badly... For we ought to have something more than the animals, as reasonable men, and capable of heavenly senses, whose chief study it aught to be to guard the conscience from every defilement of the heart".

Created in the image of the Omniscient Lord of the universe for the purpose of knowing and worshipping God - man's light is knowledge of his own true nature. At birth man is innocent, but he gradually awakens to the discriminating power of consciousness and reason. Animals lack consciousness and are innocent; Though animals kill, they don't murder, and though they breed, they don't lust. Man, through ignorance, falls below the level of animals, and through knowledge raises above the angels. For a conscious man lack of knowledge is ignorance, lack of love is hate, lack of justice is cruelty, and lack of spiritual freedom is sin. Likewise the physical lack of wealth, health, or life is called respectively poverty, disease, and death. Thus any lack of a spiritual virtue is called evil but has only a relative existence. For example, the disaster of war is not a demonstration of "the power of evil." Rather, it demonstrates the consequences of disorder in the intricately structured human world. And why do we have war? It is due to ignorance of the true nature of human society. As the St. Peter says in the Ebionite writings: "For ignorance will be found to be the mother of almost all evils".

As an example of an evil not caused by ignorance, it might be objected that the poisonous venom of a snake bite is definitely evil. To the snake, however, his venom is both his means of protection and survival; Only to his victim is the poison an evil. In fact, medical science has created useful serums from extracted venom, showing that knowledge and order is the true "good", and ignorance and disorder the only absolute "evil". It doesn't take an Einstein to deduce the relativity of evil. The Prince of Apostles said:
"Evil, then, does not exist always, yea, it cannot exist at all substantially; for pain and death belong to the class of accidents, neither of which can co-exist with abiding strength. For what is pain but the interruption of harmony? And what is death but the separation of soul from body? There is therefore no pain when there is harmony..."

Though the church has heard less constructive comment on these and other of it's dogmas, no philosopher can criticize the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus. In fact, His ethical teachings are the most logical way of relating to life's experiences. For example, Jesus taught to return love for evil. Also according to reason vengeance is blameworthy as it achieves no good result; The only difference between an offence and vengeance is that one occurred first, and the other afterwards. To break the vicious cycle we do as Jesus taught and return love instead. Even if we are ignorant of the logic of His teachings we can still be saved from the consequences of ignorance by following the spiritual admonitions of "the Prophet of Truth" (18):
"Salvation is this, that you do His will of whom you conceived a love and affection through the gift of God; lest that saying of His be addressed to you which He spoke, 'And why do you call Me, LORD, LORD, and do not do what I say?' (citing Luke 6:46) ...For we say that he is a worshipper of God, who does the will of God, and observes the precepts of His law..."

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Author - John Roncalio. © 1983, 2003, John Roncalio.
The views expressed herein are those of the author who is solely responsible for their contents.