Oh Happy Fall … Or Not

St. Augustine once coined the phrase, “Oh, happy fall” regarding the fall from Eden, or at least I believe the phrase originated with him. As the narrative relates Adam and his spouse were truly innocent having no knowledge of good and evil. St. Augustine is pointing out that yes, there were a lot of bad things which resulted in breaking God’s command, we were expelled to a life of hardship and death and so on. Yet we became, after tasting the fruit of that particular tree, truly human. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that man can be distinguished from the animal because no animal repents (or for that matter feels a need to do so). Without that fruit, no repentance is possible.

Now if God were more clever than I (yes … that’s supposed to be a joke) perhaps He would have arranged His world (or the garden) in the following way. That is to say, there is simple way to arrange it so what He wishes from his world could transpire and yet leave His creatures with free will. Tic-Tac-Toe is a simple game. No matter what choice I give a player, a sufficiently competent person or a computer can run the game to a tie. Similarly the Garden choice could have been set so that no matter what choice Adam made, take of the fruit or not, ran to a conclusion that ultimately ran to the same (or similar) conclusion. In gaming terms, He can arrive a winning solution irrespective of Adam’s (and our) choice(s). To restate the head’s I win tails you lose, it’s eat the fruit you become learn about ethics, don’t eat and you do as well.  Now in the case of the Garden, if you think that an essential aspect of man qua man is that he can make ethical choices and can repent then St. Augustine was wrong. That is to say, Adam’s choice was not necessarily the better one. Perhaps, for example, failing to eat of the fruit then God might have other means of teaching man ethics.

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