Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Life for humans (Adam and Eve) before eating from the tree of knowledge was extremely different - as there was no sin in the physical earth.

Before that time, the two were separate, and evil had only a nebulous existence in potentia.

Then, eating from the tree of knowledge cursed the rest of humanity.

Now, it is also "known" that God has the power to do ANY thing.

Can God allow humanity ever get back to that previous state (i.e. - we all obey Him perfectly)** here on Earth** or is it never an option and why won't He?

share|improve this question
    
As worded this is a very speculative question. Off hand I can think of some traditions that say no, others that say yes. And both of the above would reject several of your premises. What are you trying to learn here? How is this a question about Christianity rather than a truth question where you're trying to find a "right" answer? –  Caleb Jan 10 '13 at 9:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Catholic answer, as best I can.

Firstly, if your question means to ask, can the current lineage of humanity transition into a state of complete grace, free from the burden of original sin or the fallen nature of the world, the answer is a simple no. The doctrine of original sin precludes it: it's a fallen world. And God has already revealed a different solution.

However, I think that "different solution" is worth digging into a little. Because your question could mean, could God's Kingdom arrive in the universe as we know it, transforming everything and everyone at once, or does it need to occur in a completely new universe?

So in brief, there are two relevant Catholic beliefs that I think provide an answer to the 2nd question, if that's the question you meant.

Firstly, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we believe in the renewal of all things. This belief, if I'm not mistaken, is taken primarily from The Revelation of John, a few of Christ's own words, and from some OT apocryphal segments.

At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

The Church... will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ. - CCC 1042

The renewal is later said in the Catechism to be a sort of transformation.

The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ. - CCC 1047

Secondly, we believe all people are born into a state of original sin, with the exceptions of Jesus and His Mother, Mary. The basic concept of orignal is summed up nicely in the CCC:

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin—an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. - CCC 205

It goes on to imply that Adam's sin has an impact on all mankind, and therefore the world of which he is the steward, because he handed his freedom, to some extent, to the devil, who only then is given real power in the world.

Put these doctrines together and a picture begins to form. Mankind relinquished his power in an appeal to Satan. Satan is thereby given reign in the world, since it's under Adam's (man's) stewardship. And because this affects the universe on a fundamental level, it becomes the nature of the universe. Thus, the only possible solutions are a completely new universe or fundamental transformation of the universe.

Now, since the Catholic teaching seems to lean towards a transformation or a renewal, we can draw some conclusions in light of what we also know about the fallen nature of the world.

  • Everyone must die. Necessary because no one is born free of original sin, and our bodies and minds are corrupt. So, we need to give them up.
  • Everyone must then be raised. (Or at least the elect.) If they aren't, we haven't got an eschatology at all! Just a bunch of dead people and a lingering fallen world.
  • Our new bodies must be made perfect. Refraining from the more speculative ideas as to what that really means, our bodies and souls are in perfect harmony with each other and with God.
  • The universe must be transformed into perfection. I don't know what this means! The Church, I think, suggests that it frees the universe from the "decay."
  • Satan must be confined to hell. He no longer gets to operate in the world of the elect.

So, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the fundamental nature of the world changes without changing its immediate appearance. But, it is necessary that we all die. And it is necessary that world-processes be freed from Satan's reign, which likely means that things work somewhat differently.

All things considered, I think the answer to your question is still no.

For, even if the universe is renewed in-place, on-the-fly, we're still dealing with a fundamentally different universe. And we've all had to die, be resurrected with perfected (different) bodies, etc.. We're dealing with something that, in our limited understanding is already very different, even if in God's eyes it's the same material.

Also, it's at least provocative that looking at this creation from a physical perspective everything about it seems temporal. That is, this universe seems created to die; everything about it seems to speak to a beginning and its ultimate demise, inferring that God never created this universe to be our eternal abode. Coupled with scriptural revelation that it will be "renewed" or "created anew", it would seem to support a totally "new creation" eschtology as opposed to a simple "restoration" of this creation.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1. Nice! You summed up my entire rambling answer in your opening paragraph! Good for you! The rest was an interesting take. Nice to hear a Catholic perspective on it. –  David Stratton Dec 20 '12 at 4:59

There's certainly no doctrine that says it's possible. The very idea would be in direct opposition to the concept of Original Sin, which states that we're all born sinners because we inherited our sinful nature.

If the doctrine of original sin is true (and since it's the starting point of your question, let's assume, for the sake of this answer, that it is) we'd have to be born of a sinless line to escape it. The only sinless person ever to walk the earth was Christ, who isn't recorded as having any Children. (At least, outside of fiction and imaginative historians that would love nothing more than to debunk His identity.)

You could, theoretically, come up with some scenario where God could create again, from the dust, a new man and new woman, therefore escaping original sin, and have them conceive before either sinned. This isn't a logical intrinsic impossibility like creating a rock so big he can't lift it or anything. Theoretically, is not an intrinsic impossibility.

But there's nothing, no indication in any Scripture, or doctrine, or tradition, or anything outside of someone's imagination to indicate that this is even remotely a part of the possible future of mankind.

Quite the contrary, prophecy about end-times that says it won't happen before this universe is destroyed, and a new Heaven and a new Earth is created. (Revelation 21). That alone means that if it happens, it won't happen here on earth - at least not this earth.

share|improve this answer
    
To your prefixed comment, I'd argue it's not a exclusively a truth question. Most Christian denominations, particularly the large ones, have eschatologies that address this quite directly. –  svidgen Dec 20 '12 at 3:14
1  
OK. I'll remove that. I can't retract the vote to close (System won't let me), but I hate voting to close without explaining myself, and answering a question I voted to close seems mildly schizophrenic to me. ;-) If it DOES get closed, you can always use that argument to try to reopen it. –  David Stratton Dec 20 '12 at 3:18
    
Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz has an Immaculate extrusion (a second head forms and wakes up when the first head dies). This did not transform the world, but the sinless human seemed to experience pain as only sensory information and had special regenerative abilities (the curse of suffering was not present). –  Paul A. Clayton Dec 20 '12 at 14:06
    
"The only sinless person ever to walk the earth was Christ". And Mary, in the Catholic doctrine. –  Chelonian Jul 17 '13 at 16:11

Transcript of Prof N T Wright's video. The salient points are:

A. Any one living in the ANE reading Genesis 1-3 will understand that it is a description of the building of a Temple .

B. The final object to be placed in the Temple is the image.

C. The purpose of the Temple is to reveal the Creator to His creation.

D. The Creator is revealed through Christ.

E. Creation is brought out of its futility through worship of its Creator.

F. Creation is renewed not replaced through worship of God.

Transcript excerpts from the video of N T Wright's lecture Being Human

10min30secs: In John Walton's little book on Genesis, in chapter 1, the point he makes is that anyone in the ancient near east, who knew anything about anything, when reading through the sequential six day creation, would not conclude that this was an actual six day period of 24 hours duration each, or it was relevant, but what Walton thinks was relevant was that they knew that the thing that has just been made was a temple, and that is a very interesting thought.

11min49secs: And the final thing you put into the temple is the image of the god, so that people coming into the temple know which god they are worshipping. And so God put into His Temple which is His own home within Creation, this human pair made in His image and likeness of who it is Creation is called to worship and praise.

24min00secs: This is what it looks like when the genuine image of God is in the Temple: the winds and the waves obey Him. He is what Adam should have been.

From this we can see what the first Adam was supposed to do. He was supposed to do what Jesus did. Died to himself. IOW: Not do what he wanted to do, but what God wanted. This is what would have preserved the original state of Creation. That would have continued the worship of God by creation, as seen in the elements and the animals submitting to God. Instead he wanted to take on the yoke of the Law, Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Original Post

Can humanity ever get back to that previous state here on Earth or is it never an option

In Christ, Man has already been brought back to the previous state present in the garden. He is no longer under Law.

But questions need to be asked in order to see what is involved in being "fallen".

Here is a view from a Vision.Org Article on Original Sin:

Quote

Further, Paul would have rejected Augustine’s idea of biological transmission. Paul presents a scenario in which humanity is held captive by a spirit being who enslaves them to sin (2 Corinthians 4:4–6; Ephesians 2:1–2). According to Paul, the entire world is held captive to "the prince of the power of the air," or Satan. Paul mentions that the human spirit can be subject to either the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:6–14). He also warns Christians that their battle with sin is against spiritual, not physical, forces (Ephesians 6:10–18).

When Paul speaks of sin "entering" the world, he is addressing the fact that Adam willingly submitted himself to Satan’s already sinful nature, something that Jesus Christ also confronted but rejected (Matthew 4:3–11; Romans 5:19). By this act Adam ensured that his progeny would be under Satan’s rulership and influence. Hence in Psalm 51 the author speaks of being conceived in sin. It was not that the act of conception was sin but rather that as a result of conception, he was to enter a world in slavery to sin.

Questions

Was there sin in the Garden?

Why was there no sin in the physical earth?

What was the nature of the curse on humanity?

Maybe this will help to clarify what sin means.

Imagine that you are living in a country where charging interest is legal and you are a private banker. Now imagine you have to relocate to a country where your father has fallen ill and needs your presence and care AND charging interest is illegal.

Can you continue to pursue your profession? No!

Have you changed your nature? No!

The curse is the relocation.

All that has happened is that you have changed your location. What was legal in one location was not legal in the second. What happened to Adam was that he relocated from the area where there was only one Law to another where there was a full suite of Laws. Even thinking of disobeying God was a violation.

Rom 4:15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

What happens to believers who are IN Christ is that they are back in the Garden. Here they do not have awareness or sense of endangerment from judging good and evil, because they are no longer under the Law. Now they are only to do what they see God does. Obviously,if they do not see anything,they do not have to do anything. If they see God reaching out to someone,they should do it as well:

Acts 14:9 This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, whIen he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well,

In order to continue in this ministry,one has to live:

Rom 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

To understand the new situation after the Cross and Atonement, the principle is this. The era/age/epoch during which the Law was in force was during the life span of the administrator. The word translated as "mediator" misdirects, as one takes the sense of reconciliation from it, weakens the description, when in reality, Paul meant ENFORCER!

Galatians 3:19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.

Numbers 35:26-28 NET But if the slayer at any time goes outside the boundary of the town to which he had fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the borders of the town of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the slayer, he will not be guilty of blood, because the slayer should have stayed in his town of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to the land of his possessions.

The Law was in effect when the mediator was alive. He was a governor who ruled in place of the king. When he died in office, he was replaced by the new administrator, who could put into force his interpretation of the law, with shelters he introduces.

Another way of seeing the obligations:

Romans 7:3 NET So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.

Paul is saying that when Christ was crucified, the High Priest (enforcer) of the Mosaic Law was put to death!

share|improve this answer
    
I have yet to meet these Christians: "There do not have awareness or sense of endangerment from judging good and evil, because they are no longer under the Law." –  Greg McNulty Dec 27 '12 at 4:10
    
There are jubilees and then, there are Jubilees! Scroll down to "blood of the high priest": frame-poythress.org/ebooks/… –  Footwasher Dec 27 '12 at 5:29

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.