I. The Bible makes it clear that God made all of creation naturally good and then entrusted this world to us and to the angels. The material world is meant to perfected by humanity and ultimately by prayer. It is sin, from human and angels, that brought evil into the world.
A. Genesis 1 contains the creation account that uses a seven day structure to emphasize the order and goodness of creation and the omnipotence and goodness of God, with creation pointing to man, and man to the worship of God.
1. The neat seven-day structure provides and orderly notion of creation, with the first three days creating a background, or a home, and the second three days filling the home with life.
a. God creates
the light and darkness on the first day; and, on the fourth day, He
orders the light by making the sun, the moon, and the stars, which rule
and populate the day and night.
b. On the
second day, God makes the "waters above," the "waters below,"
and the space between them, that is, the oceans, space, and the air.
On the fifth day, He fills the waters and air with fish and birds.
c. God makes
the earth and vegetation on the third day. And, on the sixth day,
He fills the earth with animals and then creates man, giving him authority
over this earth and the animals.
d. As then-Cardinal
Ratzinger pointed out in In the Beginning (1986), the seventh
day, the Sabbath, holds everything together, pointing out the centrality
1. The Wisdom
literature of the Bible goes on to describe God's creation of all
things as good, and Wisdom, portrayed as a glorious woman, entrusted
with fashioning all things. See, e.g., Wis. 1:13-15, 7:21-8:1,
9:9; Prov. 8:22-31; Sir. 24:1-12.
in the first three centuries the Church had to battle the Gnostic tendencies
from Hellenistic culture, which denied the goodness of created things,
instead assigning them to a lesser god, who is either evil, or at least
flawed. One can see in the letters of St. John an early refutation
of this heresy with his insistence that Jesus Christ is God truly come
as a human being. See 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7.
2. The Church
thus teaches that actions in this world are good, although limited.
However, when joined to the love of God, they take on an eternal significance,
and will be restored and glorified one day in the new heavens and new
earth. See, e.g., Vatican II Council, Gaudium
et Spes (1965) 38.
A. An angel is a pure spirit created to glorify God forever in heaven.
1. The term angel
(aggelos in Greek, angelus in Latin) means messenger,
for the angels described in the Bible are mostly, although not exclusively,
messengers and guardians from God. See, e.g., Gen.19, 22:11; Judges
6:11-24; 1 Kings 19:5; Zech. 1:7-17; Matt. 1:20, 2:19; Luke 1:10-20,
26-38; Heb. 2:2.
2. They have such a
magnificence and power that, in the Bible, when people realize that
they have seen an angel, they believe that they will die from the glory
of it. See, e.g., Judges 6:22, 13:22; Tob. 12:16; Dan. 9:17-19.
For the angels are so close to God, when people in the Bible see them,
they describe the occasion as seeing the Lord. See, e.g., Gen.
16:13, 32:30; Ex. 3:2-6. St. John was even tempted to give an
angel the worship due to God. See Rev. 19:10, 22:9-10.
As a result, among the first words an angel addresses to a human are
frequently, "Be not afraid." See, e.g., Luke 1:13, 2:10.
3. Angels, although
they guard and guide us, are dangerous if approached without the proper
respect. See, e.g., Gen. 19:11; Ex. 23:20-27; Num. 22:22-35; 2
Pet. 2:10-12. The Book of Revelation thus describes them as both:
(1) guiding and guarding God's people, especially in their worship,
but also (2) announcing God's wrath upon the world. See, e.g.,
Rev. 7:1-8, 8:3-10:11, 16:1-21.
B. When angels were created, they had one choice, for or against God. They were so close to God that that one choice was final, for never-ending glory or never-ending shame.
1. The angels
who chose to serve God became what we call angels and praise Him forever
in heaven in magnificent splendor beyond the ability of human words
to describe. See Catechism 329-35.
2. The spirits
who chose against God became what we call demons and, in their hatred
for God and us, they seek to turn as many people against God as possible.
There is a continuing battle between the angels and demons, which will
end only in the final consummation of all things on this earth, when
Christ appears with His angels to judge all people and nations.
See Matt. 25:14-46; Rev. 20-22.
II. The Bible and Church teaching affirm that man was created naturally good, joining the spiritual and material realms. But human nature is now in a fallen state because of sinfulness. The grace of Christ brings us into a glorified state, now freed from original sin, but afflicted with the effects of original sins, such as weakness of will, difficulty in prayer, and subjection to death.
A. As stated above,
the creation account in Genesis 1 describes, not only the goodness of
this realm in general, but also says man and woman are created in the
image of God and given authority over this world.
B. The creation account in Genesis 2 makes the same point, here emphasizing man as a combination of material and spirit, the primordial state as one of harmony, and the complimentarity of male and female at the beginning.
1. This creation
account describes the creation of man first, whom God makes from the
clay of the earth (representing our earthiness) and His breath (or spirit),
representing our divine calling. There is a refutation of either
the idea that we are really just material, or the idea that our souls
are merely imprisoned in the body. Body and soul are naturally
joined together from the beginning.
- The tree
of life would be taken away after the Fall, but is now restored by the
5. The first
marriage is there at the beginning, ordering the rest of creation.
God created only three institutions, marriage, the ancient country of
Israel, and the Church. Humans created all other institutions,
and can change their natures; but these three institutions are from
God Himself, and therefore not subject to human change.
B. Having described creation as good, the Bible then addresses the question of how evil came into the world. Chapter 3, building on the themes of the garden and the trees in chapter 2, addresses this question.
1. The serpent shows
up as the cleverest of all animals. This serpent would come to
be understood as a symbol, and perhaps the material disguise, of Satan,
the leader of the fallen angels. Adam and Eve are innocent, but
are clearly not forced into sin; they receive a temptation and choose
how to respond. In our fallen state, the devil can tempt us in
more ways, but we even now are never forced to sin. As indicated
in the Book of Revelation, this serpent is not a small snake but a dragon
and thus potentially terrible and threatening, which partially explains
why Adam does not challenge him. See Rev. 12. But he is
also seductive and persuasive; he would probably rather use deception,
but would likely have resorted to threats in the end.
- First, the serpent
distorts God's commandment, asking whether God forbade eating the
fruit of any of the trees, which suggests that God did not want Adam
and Eve to enjoy anything. It is classic of tempters to misconstrue
God's commandments making them seem more difficult than they are.
Eve (and the silent or absent Adam) do not turn to God in prayer at
this time of temptation, but instead rely on their own power.
- Third, the serpent
maligns God's intentions, saying the God really just wanted to keep
Adam and Eve ignorant and less than they could be. He does not
present one bit of evidence for this contention, and in fact it does
not make any sense, for God could have just as easily not put the tree
there in the first place. But tempters rarely use clear reasoning.
- Fourth, the serpent
appeals to her pride, which is the root of all evils; he awakens in
Adam and Eve a desire to be like God in deciding what is good and what
the fruit of the tree appeals to Eve in three classic ways: it is good
for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
There is an appeal to sensual desire, the attractiveness of worldly
beauty, and intellectual vanity. Sense pleasure, false beauty,
and vanity are ever sources of temptation.
Eve falls, Adam simply goes with the flow. His sin comes largely
from a lack of courage. First, he fails to help Eve by confronting
the serpent. Second, he fails to defend the truth, simply letting
Eve make a choice without a guiding hand. And third, once she
falls, he refuses to try to get her to repent or even to resist, but
instead goes along with her. The desire to be like everybody else
is a final means that tempters use.
3. After the fall, Adam and Eve are then ashamed to be with God. It is a common trick of the devil to persuade a person that a sin is minor before the fact, but then after the sin, to use a sense of shame to keep the person from turning back to God.
- Even after
the sin is clear, God gives Adam and Eve the first opportunity to speak.
Their excuses are not actual lies, but they are rather irrelevant and
evade the real issue, their free choice to sin.
4. God then doles out the punishments, but before the humans are punished, there is a note of hope.
a. God first punishes the serpent in two ways: (1) by making him crawl on the ground and eat dirt; and (2) by the promise that his head will be crushed by the woman or her offspring.
punishment of crawling on the ground, on one level, has the literal
meaning that snakes, a symbol of the devil, crawl, rather than walk,
as perhaps ancestors of snakes did, and certainly as mythical dragons
would. At a deeper level, the devil's abilities are limited
precisely because of man's reduced ability to access the spiritual
realms; his main attack will now have to be concentrated at a lower
punishment of war between the serpent and the woman and his offspring
and hers implies defeat for the serpent, for he can strike only at the
heal, while the woman and her offspring strike at his head. We
can now see the fulfillment of this punishment in the devil's temporary
ability to crucify Jesus Christ in the physical body, but Jesus' final
triumph over the devil.
is noteworthy that the punishment of the serpent, and the implication
of final victory over him, is placed before the punishment of Adam and
Eve. God's saving power is greater than the punishment that
comes from His justice.
b. God then
punishes the woman in two related ways, pain in childbirth (representing
the difficulty of raising children generally) and pain in relations
with men. This punishment reflects one of the central effects
of original sin, the divisions and strife between people, especially
within the family. This punishment also affects men, but since
women are often more concerned with domestic harmony, this punishment
is more expressly given to eve.
C. Thus, we have a great glory, are gravely flawed by original sin, but are redeemed by Christ and have a great glory that comes from Him.
1. We are in the image of God, for we can love the good, know the truth, appreciate the beautiful, and ascend to God in holiness.
a. We can love
the good in God, in each other and in all creation. Seeking this
goodness is at the essence of the call to love, which gives freedom
its final purpose.