The Creation, Nature and Fall of Man

Author: Rev. William G. Most

Nature and Origin of the Human Race

We are creatures made up of spirit and matter, body and soul. Our spirit is the immaterial soul, which our senses cannot feel. But our faith tells us it is there. So by way of our soul, we have some share in the nature of the angels.

We can see that we have a spiritual soul in this way. Each of us has a concept or idea of dog in general. Our mental dog is not high or low, long or short, sharp-nosed or pug-nosed. If we hired the very best artist, offered him any sum and his choice of mediums: oil paints, carving, casting etc. , to make an image of our dog, we would get nothing. For no material can hold this concept. So that in us which holds it is not material, but spiritual. This is all the more obvious in our concepts of goodness, truth, justice etc.

Our soul can exist apart from the body. It will never die, because being spiritual, it has no parts, and so cannot come apart. It will live forever in happiness beyond what we can imagine, or in the reverse, eternal damnation. The Book of Wisdom 3:1-4 says: "The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment will touch them. They seemed to die, to the eyes of foolish people, and their departure was considered evil . . . but they are in peace. Their hope is full of immortality."

Each human soul is directly created by God Himself, it is not produced by or derived from the parents. The parents produce only the human body, and do even that, only with the help of God's power. The uniting of the soul with the body is called infusion. Modern biology knows that at the moment of conception, when the 23 chromosomes from each parent join, the complete genetic pattern of a unique being is already present. So abortion is gravely sinful.

Many today think that the human body evolved from lower beings. If they say that this happened without any help from God, it is atheistic evolution. Not only theology rejects that foolish idea, even mere reason rejects it: it supposes that matter could lift itself up and up higher by its shoelaces, as it were, with no outside source for the higher leves of complexity.

Pope Pius XII in Humani generis in 1950 told us we may consider as a possible--not as something proved--that God established some natural laws that would bring about this evolution from lower to higher. Even so, the whole process would depend on God's creative power. This is true especially of the human soul, which, being spiritual, cannot have evolved. We would call this theistic evolution, that is evolution involving the power of God at so many points.

The scientific evidence for bodily evolution is almost non-existent. "Research News" in Science, November 21, 1980, reported that the majority of 160 scientists at a conference at the Field Museum in Chicago said Darwin was wrong in supposing there had been many intermediate forms between species, e.g., between fish and birds. The fossils do not give one clear case of that. So the scientists decided on, "Punctuated equilibria", the theory that a species might stay the same for millions of years, and then suddenly by a fluke leap up into something higher. No solid proof was reported as offered at the meeting.

Pius XII also noted that Catholics must believe, as a consequence of the doctrine of original sin, that all men have descended from the same two first parents. Science News, August 13, 1983, reported that Allan Wilson, of the University of California, Berkeley, said his study of specimens of mitochrondrial DNA from all over the world, showed all existing humans come from one mother, who lived 350,000 years ago. More recent studies by many scientists agree that there was only one mother, but lower the age to 200,000 years (cf. Newsweek, January 11, 1988).

Original sin

God had given to Adam and Eve, our first parents, three levels of gifts: 1) basic humanity, consisting of a body and soul, with mind and will. Each has within it certain natural drives and needs. No one of these is evil in itself, but without the help of some added gift to coordinate them, they tend to get out of order, to rebel. 2) God gave to our first parents an added gift, which is just such a coordinating gift, which made it easy to keep each drive in its place. (It is sometimes called the gift of integrity). When Adam and Eve sinned, the lower flesh began to get out of line, to rebel. Hence Adam felt the need of cover; before the fall, he did not feel that, for the flesh was easily docile. God gave them also exemption from physical death, which otherwise would be natural to a being composed of parts, body and soul, which can come apart, and so die. 3) He gave them the life of grace, a share in His own life, which made the soul basically capable of the vision of God in the life to come.

God clearly intended they should pass on all thee gifts to their children, including us. Through the narrative of the forbidden fruit, however, the Sacred author tells us that God gave our first parents some kind of command, whether it was about a tree or something else. Whatever it was, they violated His orders, and fell from His favor, losing sanctifying grace and the coordinating gift. Hence they transmitted to us only that basic humanity, without the other gifts.

Except for Jesus and Mary, all the descendents of Adam and Eve were conceived without sanctifying grace. Without that grace, the soul is not capable of the vision of God in heaven.

Each new baby arrives without the grace God willed it should have. An adult who sins mortally also lacks that grace: hence both can be said to be in the "state of sin", they lack the grace they should have, except that the adult is that way by his own fault, the baby without any fault. John Paul II explained, in a General Audience of October 1, 1986: "... it is evident that original sin in Adam's descendants has not the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace... ." Privation means the lack of what ought to be there. So when we speak of transmission of original sin, it would be more accurate to speak of non-transmission of sanctifying grace.

Original sin also resulted in a darkening of the mind and weakening of the will, in comparison to what it might have been. Hence John Paul II also said in a General Audience of October 8, 1986: "According to the Church's teaching it is a case of a relative and not an absolute deterioration, not intrinsic to the human faculties . . . not of a loss of their essential capacities even in relation to the knowledge and love of God." In other words, original sin took our race down only to the essential level, the first level we described. It did not make it positively corrupt, surely not totally corrupt as Martin Luther thought.

Right after the fall, God promised to send a Redeemer. God said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her descendants and yours. He will strike at your head, you will strike at his heel." The Church, as did the Jews, inteprets this as a prophecy of the Messiah.

Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART TWO: The Apostle's Creed
First Article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."

By William G. Most. (c)Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

Related Q and A

1. Who made us?

God made us.

(a) Reason unaided by revelation can prove that God exists. It knows that this vast universe could not have come into being by its own powers. The movement of creatures and their dependence upon one another, the various degrees of perfection found in them, the fact that they come into being and cease to be, and, finally, the marvelous order in the universe, demand the existence of an almighty power and the wisdom of an eternal intelligent cause that we call God.

2. Who is God?

God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps them in existence.

(a) This universe did not always exist; it came into existence at the beginning of time.

(b) All things depend on God; they begin and continue to exist by the power of God.

3. Why did God make us?

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

(a) By creating the world God did not increase His own happiness, since He was infinitely happy from all eternity, but He did manifest His glory externally by sharing His goodness. All creatures by their very existence show forth the glory of God, for all depend on God for their existence.

(b) God created man to manifest His glory in a special way. He gave man an intellect and a will that he might know, praise, and love his Creator. In the service of God man finds his true, though imperfect, happiness in this life. Perfect happiness has been promised in the next life as a reward for the merits man acquires here on earth. Thus the happiness of man is also a purpose of creation.

(c) The happiness of heaven consists in the direct vision, love, and enjoyment of God. This reward so far exceeds man's nature that without the supernatural help of God it could not possibly be attained. In heaven God gives us the light of glory, which enables us to see Him face to face. During our life on earth God gives us His grace, which enables us to live a supernatural life and to perform the actions that can earn this reward.

(d) The happiness of the blessed in heaven varies according to the merits of their lives on earth. All in heaven are perfectly happy, but one person may have a greater degree of happiness than another because he has more capacity for happiness, by another because he has more capacity for happiness, by reason of a more virtuous life on earth.

48. What is man?

Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.

(a) The soul and the body are not loosely connected parts of man, they are united in a substantial union to form one complete human nature. The soul is not located in any particular member of the body but is whole and entire in each part.

49. Is this likeness to God in the body or in the soul?

This likeness to God is chiefly in the soul.

(a) All creatures bear some resemblance to God inasmuch as they exist. Plants and animals resemble Him insofar as they have life, but none of these creatures is made to the image and likeness of God. Plants and animals do not have a rational soul, such as man has, by which they might know and love God.

50. How is the soul like God?

The soul is like God because it is a spirit having understanding and free will, and is destined to live forever.

(a) Men are especially like God when they know and love Him:

first, in a merely natural way without the aid of grace;
second, in a supernatural way here on earth, with the aid of grace;
third, in a perfect way in heaven, with the aid of the special] light God gives to the souls of the blessed.

(b) Understanding is the power of the soul to apprehend, to judge, and to reason, and thus to know right and wrong.

(c) Conscience is that judgment by which we decide here and now what we should do as good or avoid as evil.

(d) Free will is that power of the soul to choose either to act or not to act.

(e) Human souls live forever because they are spirits.

(f) The never-ending life of the soul is called immortality.

51. Who were the first man and woman?

The first man and woman were Adam and Eve, the first parents of the whole human race.

(a) The theory of evolution which teaches that higher forms of life develop from lower forms has offered no convincing, scientific proof that the human body developed gradually from that of a lower animal.

(b) If scientific proof of such development of the body of man could be had, it would not be opposed to Catholic doctrine provided that some special action of God is admitted not only in the creation of the soul but also in the production of the body of Adam.

(c) The human soul, being spiritual, could not possibly have developed from a lower, material form of life.

(d) Sacred Scripture teaches that Adam's soul, like every human soul, was created directly by God.

52. What was the chief gift bestowed on Adam and Eve by God?

The chief gift bestowed on Adam and Eve by God was sanctifying grace, which made them children of God and gave them the right to heaven.

(a) Sanctifying grace is a supernatural gift which is a sharing in the nature of God Himself and which raises men to the supernatural order, conferring on them powers entirely above those proper to human nature.

(b) Together with sanctifying grace God gave Adam and Eve the super natural virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

53. What other gifts were bestowed on Adam and Eve by God?

The other gifts bestowed on Adam and Eve by God were happiness in the Garden of Paradise, great knowledge, control of the passions by reason, and freedom from suffering and death.

(a) These gifts are not supernatural or above all created natures, but they are preternatural, that is, beyond the powers of human nature, though not above all created natures.

(b) If Adam had not sinned, these gifts would have been transmitted to all men as the possession of human nature.

54. What commandment did God give Adam and Eve?

God gave Adam and Eve the commandment not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree that grew in the Garden of Paradise.

(a) God wished to test the obedience of our first parents in order that they might have the privilege of proving themselves faithful to Him and of meriting, in a special way, everlasting happiness in heaven.

55. Did Adam and Eve obey the commandment of God?

Adam and Eve did not obey the commandment of God, but ate of the forbidden fruit.

(a) In eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve committed sins of pride and disobedience. Our first parents sinned grievously because they deliberately disobeyed a grave command of God.

56. What happened to Adam and Eve on account of their sin?

On account of their sin Adam and Eve lost sanctifying grace, the right to heaven, and their special gifts; they became subject to death, to suffering, and to a strong inclination to evil, and they were driven from the Garden of Paradise.

(a) The loss of sanctifying grace and the special gifts marked the beginning of that conflict between man's lower powers and his reason, of which Saint Paul says, "The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh . . ." (Galatians 5:17).

(b) Sacred Scripture teaches us that Adam, by the grace of God, later obtained the remission of his sin.

57. What has happened to us on account of the sin of Adam?

On account of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been obedient to God.

58. What is this sin in us called?

This sin in us is called original sin.

59. Why is this sin called original?

This sin is called original because it comes down to us through our origin, or descent, from Adam.

60. What are the chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through original sin?

The chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through original sin are death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin.

(a) The fact of original sin explains why man is so often tempted to evil and why he so easily turns from God.

(b) Because of the ignorance resulting from original sin, the mind of man has difficulty in knowing many necessary truths, easily falls into error, and is more inclined to consider temporal than eternal things.

(c) The penalties of original sin--death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin--remain after Baptism, even though original sin is taken away.

(d) Although we have a strong inclination to evil as a result of original sin, our nature is not evil in itself; it can perform some good actions in the natural order without the aid of grace.

61. Is God unjust in punishing us on account of the sin of Adam?

God is not unjust in punishing us on account of the sin of Adam, because original sin does not take away from us anything to which we have a strict right as human beings, but only the free gifts which God in His goodness would have bestowed on us if Adam had not sinned.

62. Was any human person ever preserved from original sin?

The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin in view of the merits of her Divine Son; and this privilege is called her Immaculate Conception.

(a) In the first instant of her conception the Blessed Virgin Mary possessed the fullness of sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. She was, however, subject to pain and suffering, as was her Divine Son.

(b) By a special privilege of Almighty God, Our Blessed Mother was free throughout her life from all actual sin, both mortal and venial.

The Baltimore Catechism, no. 3, Lessons 1 and 5.