Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Creation and Fallenness

Genesis, and indeed the entirety of Holy Scripture, maintains that God created man in His own image and likeness, male and female. He formed his body from the dust of the ground and breathed into him spirit (ruach). So man became a living being (nefesh) who has body, soul and spirit.

At his blog "Glory to God for All Things", Father Stephen Freeman recently posted a fine piece on the biblical view of creation and order in creation. Here is an excerpt:

Orthodox Christianity does not attribute a “spirit” to the things of creation - but neither does it describe creation as mute or as a secularized, universal no-man’s land. The universe is decidedly on the side of God and resists those who do evil. This is not to say that creation behaves in a way in which we are always pleased. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. The righteous die of cancer as well as the wicked. There is a fallenness to the world in which we live, but it has not been stripped of its character or nature. The winds and the seas obeyed the voice of Christ, even as the universe itself came into being through His voice.

Neither does Orthodoxy see creation has having been brought into existence and simply left alone to its own laws and devices. Instead we confess that “in Him we live and move and have our being.” God is not a stranger to the universe at any point. He sustains us and everything around us.

All of this means that how we interact with creation is not properly that of the “masters of the universe” lording it over some inert lump of stuff. The passage in Leviticus points rather to a proper stewardship of everything around us. The earth does not belong to us: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

In recent years the Patriarch of Constantinople added a new emphasis to the Orthodox feast of the New Year (marked on September 1). To the new year he added an emphasis on celebrating our relationship with the whole of the created order and our right treatment of all things. This was ratified by the other patriarchs of the Church within the past month.

The voice of creation is not always heard by all. But it is heard by some. St. Anthony of Egypt said (when asked why he had no books), “My book is the whole creation.” It apparently taught him into paradise.

Read it all here.

My question to Father Stephen was, “What does one say to the homosexual who argues that God created him or her that way?” Here is Fr. Freeman’s thoughtful response:

"God is everywhere present, and filling all things. Even in creation as fallen, He is at work. But none of us, regardless of orientation, genome, etc., can say, ‘God made me this way,’ in the sense that we would Biblically say of Adam, 'God made him that way.' In the Biblical story (you’re the Genesis expert!) it is said of Seth that he was born in 'Adam’s' image, recognizing that something has not been fulfilled in Seth that was promised in Adam.

We are all earthen vessels in which God does move and speak, and renew and recreate. The homosexual, like the alcoholic, can find a form of sobriety in Christ - which is not necessarily to say that he or she will find an end of disordered attractions. Neither does the alcoholic necessarily find that alcohol never comes to mind. But sobriety is a healing and has a fullness in it that is deeply of God.

The fullness, even within a Christian marriage, is rarely the fullness that it should be, I think because we do not treat it seriously enough and settle for too little.

But we should not attribute to God what God has not done. He has not made us sick or dysfunctional. Sin has distorted everything. Nothing is seen in completion until it is seen in Christ and the fullness of His resurrection."

Father Freeman's response will be helpful to those who wonder how to respond to the question of homosexuality or other conditions exhibiting fallenness. The wise never regard God as a stamp of approval on their center-of-the-universe illusions. The compassionate heart always sees the Christ-fulfilled divine promise in even the most broken life.

I'm reminded of something that Dorothy Sayers wrote:

If we refuse assent to reality: if we rebel against the nature of things and choose to think that what we at the moment want is the centre of the universe to which everything else ought to accommodate itself, the first effect on us will be that the whole universe will seem to be filled with an inexplicable hostility. We shall begin to feel that everything has a down on us, and that, being so badly treated, we have a just grievance against things in general. That is the knowledge of good and evil and the fall into illusion. If we cherish and fondle that grievance, and would rather wallow in it and vent our irritation in spite and malice than humbly admit we are in the wrong and try to amend our behaviour so as to get back to reality, that is, while it lasts, the deliberate choice, and a foretaste of the experience of Hell. (Introductory Papers on Dante, p. 64)

The destructive ways we seek to regain Paradise only make us hostile to God and to those who speak to us of true hope through repentance and amendment of life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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