Friday, March 26, 2010

Perelandra, Plantinga, and the Happy Fall

There's a popluar argument that the Fall is really a good thing overall, because it opens the door for the Incarnation of the Second Person, which Plantinga has endorsed. I don't buy this at all. Interestingly enough, C. S. Lewis's Perelandra a rebuttal to that that theory. As I recall the story, the Un-Man, who is Weston's Body taken over by the Bent Eldil (in other words Satan), uses felix culpa type arguments to persaude the Green Lady (the Venusian Eve) to fall. (It will really do good for you to fall, in fact, it will do so much good that God Himself, in the Second Person, actually came to the Third Planet).

We do have goods that arose as as response to the Fall, involving the Incarnation, but we do not have a basis for comparing what did happen to what would have happened had there been no Fall.

If God had the power to actualize a world in which everyone freely does what is right, it seems reasonably evident that He should have done so. Unless universalism is true, it would have saved a lot of people from eternal damnation. Of course, I don't think God had the power to actualize such a world, because if God guarantees that everyone freely does what is right, then significant freedom is missing.


Martin said...

<< Romans 6 >>
Douay-Rheims Bible

1 WHAT shall we say, then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid.

steve said...

"We do have goods that arose as as response to the Fall, involving the Incarnation, but we do not have a basis for comparing what did happen to what would have happened had there been no Fall."

Well, Victor, that's a pretty radical objection. For that undermines just about any counterfactual comparisons. Does this mean you reject possible worlds semantics?

steve said...

While you're at it, Martin, compare that with Rom 11:32.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, You're making "freedom" the most important part of the equation, are you not?

Then will the saved have freedom in heaven?

And, does God have freedom?

Victor Reppert said...

We don't know what the alternative possibilities are. But I think we can envision reality being a good deal better than it is had we not fallen. My point was that you can't look only at the goods in Alpha (the actual world), you have to find some way to envision what the other world might be like. And Lewis the novelist in Perelandra gives us the best account I know of what a world would be like had the Fall been averted. And you end up being very glad the Eve of Venus (Perelandra) didn't fall.

Does anyone know of any other portrait of an unfallen world?

Blaise Pascal said...

Is this really the meaning of Platinga? Is he an consequentialist? I mean the fall is really an act of direct and willful disobedience to the most Holy. This is a grave sin and is therefore intrinsically bad. Whatever consequences grow out of a bad action, the fundamental moral value of the action itself cannot be changed by this. An evil action stays evil.

E.G. Judas' betrayal of Christ was a most dispicable act even though God has ordered the course of events in such a way that it has infinitly good consequences.

kbrowne said...

May a non-Christian add something to this discussion?

I don't think you can use Perelandra to show that the fall was a bad thing even if it did lead to the Incarnation. Perelandra takes place in a world where the Incarnation has already happened. That is why the inhabitants of Perelandra are human. We see a world where there is no fall and yet there is still an Incarnation. What we don't see in Perelandra is what would have happened if there had been a fall there. So we may be 'very glad the Eve of Venus didn't fall.' What would have been gained if she had is not known.

I think it is orthodox Christian teaching, by the way, that the Incarnation might have taken place even if there had been no fall. The Roman Catholic Church, at any rate, allows people to think that. I can't speak for any other denomination. If so, what was gained by the fall?

On another topic entirely, Perelandra is a difficult book to read. In some ways, it is beautiful, but it shows Lewis' sexism, his most serious fault, at its worst. Remember the distinction between the naive innocence of the woman, who understands so very little, and the great wisdom of the man, who looked exactly like Jesus? I don't know whether to be angry or to laugh at it.

Mike Darus said...

I think I stumbled on the origin of your "Happy Fall." It is in the Roman Catholic Easter Proclamation. A devotional says, "When we hear about the Fall, it is in the context of the entire line, "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that gained for us so great a redeemer."

The Bible recycles a theme of God creating good out of human sin. Yet evil is not required to achieve good. Good also stands on its own. The result is good when sin is averted. The action of God converting the consequences of evil into a greater good could be morphed into a utilitarian view that God promotes evil to give him an opportunity to display grace in some greater way. Yet the Bible denies that God is a party to evil. Can we permit God to transform evil into good without accusing Him of setting up the situation?

Victor Reppert said...

I don't believe Lewis ever came to believe in full gender equality, however has "sexism" becomes considerably more muted after his marriage to Joy Davidman.

Victor Reppert said...

I would say that in heaven a person lives out the life he has freely chosen. Actions become habitual with time, both good and bad. Once we form our character in a certain direction, acts which would have at one time required deliberation now no longer require it.