Being Human Before the Fall

This is the 7th blog in this series which began with the blog Being and Becoming Human. The previous blog is God and Humanity (IV).

In the next several blogs we will look at comments from various writers about what the human was intended to be in God’s plan.  What did it mean to be human in the world before the Fall – the prelapsarian world of the Paradise which God the Gardener prepared for Adam and Eve and in which God placed them.  They lived in this world for only a short time before rebelling against God and being expelled from the Garden of Delight.  So, before the Fall, what was it to be human?  St. Gregory Nazianzus  (d. 391AD) says:

“Wishing to form a single creature from the two levels of creation – from both invisible and visible nature – the Creator Logos fashioned man.  Taking a body from the matter which he had previously created, and placing in it the breath of life that comes from himself, which scripture terms the intelligent soul and the image of God (cf.  Gen 1:27; 2:7), he formed man as a second universe, great in this littleness.  He set him on earth as a new kind of angel, adoring God with both aspects of his twofold being, overseer of the material creation and initiate into the spiritual creation; king of all upon earth, but subject to the King above; earthly yet heavenly; temporal yet immortal; visible yet spiritual; midway between majesty and lowliness; a single person, yet both spirit and flesh – spirit by grace, flesh because of his pride; spirit, that he may continue in existence and glorify his benefactor; flesh, that he may suffer, and through suffering may be reminded and chastened when he grows conceited because of his greatness; a living creature guided in this world by God’s providence, and then translated to another realm; and, as the culmination of the mystery, deified through his obedience to God.  So God in his splendor has bound together soul and body; and though he separates them at death, he will hereafter bind them together again in a yet more exalted way.”  (THE TIME OF THE SPIRIT,  p26)

The human is that being created by God to bring together the visible and invisible, the spiritual and the physical, the soul and the body, the divine and the created. The human  is thus the meeting point of all of all of these seemingly opposite aspects of existence – the very part of creation in whom God intended existence to meet and unite and to live in unity together. As we know and shall see, in the human,  God will also bring together the opposites of being mortal with immortality.    And while it has proven easy for us to be less than human, to dehumanize and become inhuman, God intended us to be fully human which is nothing less than being divinized, attaining theosis.

“’If humanity is called to life in order to share in the divine nature, it must have been suitably constituted for the purpose . . . It was essential that a certain kinship with the divine should have been mixed in human nature, so that this affinity should predispose it to seek what is related to it . . . That is why humanity was given life, intelligence, wisdom, and all the qualities worthy of the godhead, so that each one of them should cause it to desire what is akin to it.  And since eternity is inherent in the godhead, it was absolutely imperative that our nature should not lack it but should have in itself the principle of immortality.  By virtue of this inborn faculty it could always be drawn towards what is superior to it and retain the desire for eternity.

That is summed up in a sing phrase in the account of the creation of the world: ‘God created man in his own image’ (Genesis 1:27).”    (Olivier Clement, THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, p 80)

The Fathers often understood the human to be in some way a second cosmos created by God, but somehow a small cosmos with each human being a microcosm of the entirety of the universe.  Each human microcosm somehow contains all that one could find in the entire universe.  The human unites all of these aspects of the cosmos, but even more important can transcend them all in a way not possible for any other creature. This is also how it is possible for the very being and life of the God-man Jesus Christ to be able unite all humanity and all creation in Himself and thus bring about the salvation of the entire world.

“In our personal freedom we transcend the universe, not in order to abandon it but to contain it, to utter its meaning, to mediate grace to it. . . .  It is in this sense that the Fathers understand the second account of the creation (Genesis 2:4-25) which sees in Man the basic principle of the created world.  Only Man is quickened by the very breath of God, and without him the ‘plants’ could not grow, as if they were rooted in him.  And it is he who ‘names’ the animals, discerning their spiritual essences.  Only Man – who is priest as well as king – can bring out the secret sacramentality of the universe.  Adam was put in the world to ‘cultivate’ it, to perfect its beauty.  It was Vladimir Soloviev’s profound observation that the vocation of the human race is to become a collective cosmic Messiah and ‘subdue the earth’, that is to say transfigure it.  For the universe therefore, humanity is its hope of obtaining grace and being united to God.  Man is also its risk of failure and degeneration, because, if he turns away from God, he will see only the outward appearance of things and impose a false ‘name’ on them. . . . Humanity’s fate determines the fate of the cosmos.  The biblical revelation, understood symbolically, confronts us with an uncompromising anthropocentrism, which is not physical but spiritual.  Because Man is at once ‘microcosm and microtheos’, both a summing up of the universe and the image of God; and because God, in order to unite himself to the world, finally became a human being; humanity is the spiritual axis of all creation at every level, in every sphere.  . . . the heart of the saints is the ‘place of God’ and therefore the center of the world; better than that, the heart contains the world and so situates it in love.”   (Olivier Clement, ON HUMAN BEING, p 110-111)

Next:  Being Human Before the Fall (II)