Maundy Thursday

God could have eliminated the stain of Original Sin from our world altogether. He could speak a single Word of power and wipe it out. Why didn’t he? Why instead did he become a man and suffer death? Why did he then put us through the perils of this life?

It’s simple: the only way he could have wiped out sin is to unmake the world as we now find it.

Sin is an immutable fact of this world’s history. God can’t turn a vicious fact into a virtuous fact, because doing so would involve either forgetting what has actually happened – an impossibility for omniscience – or changing the nature of virtue – of, i.e., his own nature as the very Form of the Good, an impossibility for a necessary being. So, he can’t arrange things so that this world no longer has the past that it now has. All he can do is influence its future. And the only way he could completely delete sin from the future of a world would be to give it a sinless past. For our world, this would involve its complete destruction and replacement.

This world is sick unto death, and will die – is dying. But contra the nihilists, it would not be merciful for God to kill it now, so as to spare its future denizens their agonies. We don’t kill a man because he is terminally ill and will die someday in horrible pain. Or we shouldn’t, anyway; for all of us will die one day, most in horrible pain, and in the meantime, there are beauties we may create, goods we may do, and pleasures we may enjoy. The world and its denizens are not altogether evil; if they were, then the world would be already over, for the maximum of evil is the zero of being. On the contrary, this wounded world keeps generating marvelous beauties together with its sordid failures, not least a torrent of souls each capable of everlasting glory and godlike majesty.

Rather than kill the world, then, God has in the Incarnation and the Atonement provided a Way for those souls to begin now, in this world, their passage to and implementation of the next, in which there is no defect of being. What is that Way? It is participation in his Passion. Suffering and Death – our suffering and death – are the Way, for those who take them as such.

On Maundy Thursday, we remember and celebrate the institution of that Way, established in the very teeth of our betrayals. Deo gracias.

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7 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday

  1. Bingo. I often put it a similar way, that God (who is pure love) cannot fail to love man, but that love necessarily takes into account the reality of the beloved. A man who loves a woman and desires to marry her would not, if she refused, kidnap her and hold her hostage, forcing her to live with him as wife, and if he did, all would rightly conclude that what he experiences toward her is not love at all.

    Well, man rejected God’s marriage proposal; and God, who loves us, cannot but respect our decision, as horrific as the consequences would be. Have been.

  2. Kristor:

    It’s simple: the only way he could have wiped out sin is to unmake the world as we now find it.

    Sin is an immutable fact of this world’s history. God can’t turn a vicious fact into a virtuous fact, because doing so would involve either forgetting what has actually happened – an impossibility for omniscience – or changing the nature of virtue – of, i.e., his own nature as the very Form of the Good, an impossibility for a necessary being. So, he can’t arrange things so that this world no longer has the past that it now has. All he can do is influence its future. And the only way he could completely delete sin from the future of a world would be to give it a sinless past. For our world, this would involve its complete destruction and replacement.

    Right on! And the love manifested by suffering (and by God becoming man for the very purpose of suffering) is intimately tied to each of us in a very personal way. To quote myself in an earlier incarnation:

    Other worlds presumably can be (and perhaps are) created. But only this world produced me; and I am a contingent product of this world’s precise history including all of the evil things in it.

    So this world was literally made just for me, because God loves me, and it has all of the logically necessary flaws that are antecedent to and constitutive of me. The evil in the world is something that is necessary FOR ME to exist; it has nothing existentially to do with God, and everything existentially to do with ME. For me to express the wish “I wish God had not created anything with evil in it” is to ask for my own death, and for the retroactive destruction of everyone and everything in *this* world.

    and

    Presume:

    1) God loves me. Not some putative possible perfect me that would not actually be me, but the actual me as I am.

    2) It is not possible for me to be me without all of the things that lead up to me. I am a product of a particular history, and that particular history has evil in it. Without that history it is not _logically possible_ for me to exist at all.

    3) Therefore the existence of evil is the result of the fact that God loves me specifically. God has made the judgement that I am worth it . God of course could have chosen not to create me. The existence of evil is an affront to God, and is entirely a result … of my own existence. Evil and I are ontically inseparable.

    Suppose God gave the choice to me. I could choose for there to be no evil whatsoever. If I chose that, though, I would be choosing the preemptive annihilation of myself, all that I love, and everything that actually exists.

    … The only logical options are 1) this world with its flaws, or 2) personal annihilation and annihilation of everything and everyone I have ever known and loved. To complain that God allows evil is to complain that God allows me. To ask for the retroactive elimination of evil and the Fall is to ask for Death.

    God, of course, solves the puzzle by providing redemption rather than simply disallowing evil — and therefore me and all that is important to me — a-priori.

  3. Pingback: Maundy Thursday | Reaction Times

  4. Excellent post! But that is what I have come to expect from you Kristor, I do so very much enjoy your posts, even if they have me scratching my head sometimes! :)

    I was just reading another excellent essay (on Christ, his nature, the atonement, and His suffering), from the Remnant newspaper website, and this post here seemed to dovetail it nicely. It really is quite good, so I recommend it for Orthosphere readers.

    (FWIW, the article was originally published in 1979, but was posted online for the first time ever earlier today)

    http://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/544-good-friday-meditation-jesus-priest-of-his-own-victimhood-and-victim-of-his-own-priesthood

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