The Theodicy of the Fall

The same reader who asked me to justify the ways of God to man on the question of Hell now returns to ask about the justice of the Fall of Man.

The conversation was prompted by this parable

Galadriel the Elfin queen was born in the Uttermost West, and gazed in her youth upon the white strand strewn with pearls leading to Mount Everwhite, where the unstained and angelic powers dwell, and the light from the gold trees and the silver in the First Age mingled. For the sake of ambition, and to found her own kingdom, she fled from the perfection of those blessed shores of Aman, and came to Middle Earth, which suffers under the tyranny of Melkor the Enemy, and death and disease and all unhallowed things thrive and multiply. A child of hers is born in Lothlorien, in Middle Earth, and has never seen the Blessed Lands, and the Angelic Powers of those lands has placed a barrier of fogs and enchantment and impassible seas between the Uttermost West and the sad shores of the moral world.

But, in their compassion, the Powers have allowed that any ship departing the Gray Havens may indeed find the one straight path back to the homeland of the elder race, and have their tears sponged away. The only requirement is that any crimes or misdeed performed by the elfs while tarrying in Middle Earth be confessed and forgiven, for it so happens, by some mystery the elves do not understand, some greater power from beyond even the Uttermost West, a son of Eru, the One, has been granted power to forgive.

Now, imagine this child of Galadriel, call him Gallandus, should reason thus with himself: “I do not know for certain if the tales told by my sire and dame be true of a mountain that is ever white, where the gods in peace and splendor reign, or a farther shore where no sorrow and no warfare ever comes. But for two ages of man, I have marched in battle against the orcs and unclean things of the Dark Lord, and seen sorrows unnumbered, and shed tears, and never again shall bloom for me the glorious trees of my youth I once knew, nor can I find the entwives, whom my ancestors taught the powers of speech.

“Suppose the tale is false, what then? Shall I endure the clouded oceans mazed with spells and haunted by monsters to reach no shore? What if only endless wastes, or an hemisphere without solid land, is all the prow of the Last White Ship shall find?

“If the Powers were just, they would not have imposed the sentence of my mother’s exile on me: for I was not born when she removed from that long lost world of perfection and came to this middle earth of sorrows. To punish me for my mother’s crimes when I am as innocent as new-fallen snow is gross injustice! And if the Powers are not just, I have no desire to dwell in their happy fields. Indeed, the idea of a power both angelic and unjust is a paradox: I cannot believe that they exist at all, or their homeland of which I have heard tell.”

Is there anything wrong with the reasoning of Gallandus son of Galadriel? Can you detect any flaw in his logic?

My interlocutor’s questions below are in block quotes. Italic text is his, Roman text is him quoting me.

First, it seems clear to me that the arrival of sin is seen not as the accretion of an evil, but as the discarding of a good. Most of your Middle Earth parable appears to be crafted toward that end. Since I am a skeptic about the very concept of sin, I see no reason why I should dispute this point, and I can discuss it as if that definition is a given.

I am not sure I agree, or see the relevance is has once way or the other. In general, Christian theology asserts that evil is a lack of loss of a good, or a corruption of it, or an attempt to enjoy a good in a wrong way, wrong amount, or at the wrong time.

Let me return to your statements and questions

(Gallandus) cannot inherit an inheritance his mother forswore, no more than I can inherit a property my father sold to another before I was born. So what claim has he to the lost paradise?

I do not see this as an entirely fit analogy. When my father sells a tangible property, he is selling something finite. It is not possible for more than one person to hold title to the same property at the same time, therefore he clearly forgoes the possibility of deeding the property to me. But the “lost paradise” is infinitely shareable, is it not?

Let us tread carefully here, because you and I are on opposite sides of the universe, and we share nothing in common, not premises, nor methods, nor sense of proportion.

I do not see anything inappropriate in the analogy. Adam and Eve left paradise, both as a physical spot somewhere in Northeastern Africa, and as a state of mind, where they were no longer blessed with the divine familiarity and clarity of mind and will which was the blessing of prelapsarian man. Once they have left, they no longer own it to pass it along to their children. No creature can bestow on its heirs a nature other than its own.

In law, if I own an intellectual property, say a book or trademark or formula, which is infinitely shareable, and sell it to the Disney corporation, so that it is no longer mine, then I cannot turn around and bequeath it to my heirs, since it is no longer mine to give. The fact that the property is one that can be shared makes no difference once I have lost it. The fact that Eden was large does not mean that when Adam leaves it behind him, and gives birth to Cain, Cain is of necessity not born in Eden.

So the analogy is sound. You seem to be trying to make the argument that Gallandus has the right to live in Valinor, or Cain to live in Eden, on the grounds that he did not voluntarily depart from it. My argument is that it is illogical to speak of departing from the place where one never dwelt, that this is not what the word ‘depart’ means.

As far as I can tell, your objection is that you live in a reality where children take after their parents. Or perhaps you object to the concept that prelapsarian man had the authority and ability, by choosing death and disobedience, to change human nature for all his heirs. Well, a second prelapsarian man, Christ, has used that same authority and ability, by choosing obedience and life, to change human nature for all his adopted heirs. The difference is that Cain’s fall is involuntary, but Saint Paul’s conversion is voluntary. And I am not sure how or why any fault can be laid at the feet of God for this, rather than at the feet of Adam, or Cain, or you, or me.

Your argument so far consists of a fixed purpose to blame God for man’s failure to follow God voluntarily. Your argument logically implies that God is without blame if and only if He forces man involuntarily to follow God voluntarily. The concept involves a logical self contradiction.

God is life and is the source of life. God is light and the source of light. God is good and is the source of goodness. Those who disobey God depart from him, a sentence of exile which they pronounce by themselves on themselves. Those who depart from life, light, and goodness are heirs to death, darkness and evil, a state fitliest called Hell.

Every instant in Adam’s life which was not Hell was an instant of the mercy of God holding away the justice Adam’s rebellion had called upon himself. Should Adam have been stricken with sterility rather than with the so called curse of having to work for a living? You would be harsher than God. Would it have been better, more in keeping with justice, had you never been born rather than to be born in the fallen world with a fallen nature you inherited from your ancestors? That is the counsel of blank despair, and the voice of death.


I myself am guilty of rebellion against God, independent of anything Adam has done.

Why, and how?

Why? Each time I sin, I rebel anew against God. I would here list my sins, but you are not my confessor, and they would bore if they did not horrify you.

How? Adam did not take away my free will. Each time I rebel against God, I am in my right mind and in command of my wits. I cannot blame others for my acts.

I can perhaps blame Adam for my human nature, which is corrupt; but Saint John and Saint Justin-Martyr for whom I am named had my same human nature and were saved from their sins.

Can not Gallandus fairly say, “Those elven-queens who remained across the western sea remain there in bliss to this day. So indeed do their children and their children’s children. The fact that I have been constrained to toil and battle here in the world of Men, (dedicated to the struggle against the Enemy, I might add!!) is no more a failure merited by me, than their blessed status is a success merited by them.”

No.  That is pure envy speaking. That is the child of a poor man claiming the child of a rich man has wronged him by forcing him to be born poor. What a stupid accusation to make. Gallandus, in effect, is blaming his mother for not having drowned him at birth.

It is not logical to argue that no such offer should be trusted or accepted on the grounds that the injustice is so great that no alleviation should be accepted, for then where does the injustice lay? ………..what happens when Gallandus refuses to consider returning to Valinor? Whose is the blame then?

It’s not unknown in human history for men to refuse to accept a reward for themselves when they believe that their fellows, or those they have determined to protect, have not been similarly treated. Is this “logical”?? To a utilitarian, of course not. But those who have done so have often been regarded as heroes.

The response is illogical and off topic.

That petulant man who blames the firemen for not preventing a fire he caused and who now blocks the window to prevent his wife and children from going down the ladder to safety is not a hero but a numbskull.

I asked you if the unfairness of blaming God for the Fall of Man is sufficient cause for rejection the Salvation of Man. And you gave me a nonsense answer in reply.

Somehow, I am not seeing the punishment, unless you are saying that female fertility and male productivity deserve to be painless and cost no sweat. If that is the price we pay for not being animals, what right have we to rail against the price?

The only reason I can comprehend for the pain of human childbirth is the evolutionary explanation that the human braincase was on a different track than the human pelvis. To consider that pain anything but a biological coincidence seems to me horrific, and I would not willingly inflict it upon the wickedest of women.

You did not answer the question. The answer is: we have no right to rail against the human condition, because we have no power, unaided, to change it.

Do you think that the inventor of the epidural anesthetic has rebelled against the will of God, and would you therefore withhold that anesthetic from your wife or daughter?

The question is illogical and off-topic. Rebellion against the will of God consists of violating the commandment to love God and to love one’s neighbor.

Please stay with the argument.

Do you hold God responsible for the sins of man? Well, then you should be pleased that God hung on a cross for three hours and expired in agony, amid jeers and taunts, after being scourged.

If God so planned the world so that a fall into sin was likely, and that a crucifixion therefore would be required, I would say rather that men cannot be blamed for that crucifixion.

But that is not what I asked. Again, you dodge the question.

I asked you if God is to blame for sin entering the world, has not the punishment on Calvary sufficiently atoned for that? You answered that the punishment was His fault, and you say that man cannot be blamed. This is an odd comment,  since I did not ask whether men were to blame for the crucifixion.

In effect, your answer is to blame God for Man’s sins, but to reject when God atones for those same sins on our behalf. This is pure hubris, overweening pride, on your part.

Which is another way of stating the questions I now pose to you. Do you think that it was possible, at the creation of man, that he in fact could have averted the fall?

No.  The only way to avert the fall before the fall would be to reduce man to the status of an automaton, which means, to destroy human nature. Such is a cure worse than the disease, since a destroyed human nature is worse than a corrupted yet salvageable human nature.

Did God know that the fall would take place?

No, not necessarily; but yet contingently. Had Man decided not to Fall, God would have known that beforehand instead. His foreknowledge does not shift the blame.

God, being omniscient, seeing the past and future at once, knew and knows in all eternity; but what he knows of man he knows in a contingent fashion. Hence He knew that Man would fall, but this is contingent upon Man’s decision.

No tiniest breath of foreordainment or necessity breathes upon the balance scales. Lucifer was free to obey or free to fall, as was Adam. They worked their own fate.

Do you blame God for giving rational beings the power to work their own fate? But that is the nature of rational beings: to be rational means to have free will. Not even God can at the same time to the same being both grant and withhold rationality.

Now let me ask you in return: Are trying to blame the God in whom you do not believe for your own sins? Are you refusing to believe in God because you blame Him?

If you find the blameworthy god to be unbelievable and unworthy of belief, keep in mind that this is not the God that exists anywhere but in your imagination.