Assumption and Death


#1

I posted this on the Ask an Apologist forum, but the response I got didn’t actually answer the question :(. So I’m reposting it here, so I might get an actual answer:

I’ve been wondering how to reconcile the idea that human death is a punishment for original sin with the observation that everything that is alive eventually dies. I know that if God wanted to grant humanity with eternal life and stay on earth, he could easily do that, but wouldn’t that eventually overpopulate the earth if no one died? Also, aren’t we supposed to want to be with God, and not stay on earth?

I’ve come up with a tentative solution, which makes sense to me at least, that would explain this. In their unfallen state, humans might have simply chosen to die and then be assumed into heaven. My evidence for this is Mary, who died and assumed into heaven, since she actually was in an unfallen state. Scripture also points to the idea of assumption, since Enoch and Elijah were taken body and soul by God (though obviously, since they were born with original sin, they couldn’t go directly to heaven).

So I’d like to know, is this solution acceptable doctrinally, and if not, what is the Church’s solution?


#2

:hmmm:


#3

Humans would not have chosen to die in their unfallen state. Death did not exist at that time.

Mary’s choice only makes sense within the context of her Son and His Redemptive Mission. She chose to unite herself to Christ more fully by the choice she made.


#4

The impression I first got from this sentence was that you were wondering why animals die, since they don’t have original sin. The rest of your post doesn’t suggest that that’s your question, but just in case, it is my understanding that “mortal” is the natural state for material organisms. In a natural world before the Fall, and without divine intervention, we should expect both humans and animals to die. Only with God providing immortality by a miracle could Adam and Eve have lived forever. Scripture indicates this by saying Adam and Eve had to eat of the tree of life in order to live forever: Genesis 2:9, Genesis 3:22.

Therefore, it is my understanding that death is not absolutely a punishment for original sin. Only in the case of humans. I hope that helps.

I know that if God wanted to grant humanity with eternal life and stay on earth, he could easily do that, but wouldn’t that eventually overpopulate the earth if no one died?

Three options present themselves to my mind: one, they might have stopped having sexual relations after the earth was full. God had commanded mankind to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Once the mission was accomplished, perhaps they would have all been celibates.

Another possibility is that they would have developed space station technology and gradually populated the rest of the universe. That could buy them something on the order of billions of years before they would need to become celibates, unless technology can be used to make new universes.

A third possibility is that God would use His almighty power to create additional living space so that mankind would never run out of room or resources.

Also, aren’t we supposed to want to be with God, and not stay on earth?

Scripture indicates that God walked with men on the earth: Genesis 3:8. It is my understanding that, in Catholic teaching, mankind will continue to live an everlasting physical life on a renewed earth after Judgment Day: CCC 1042-1050. Because of this, I don’t think there is a dichotomy between staying on earth and being with God. God will walk with men again.

I’ve come up with a tentative solution, which makes sense to me at least, that would explain this. In their unfallen state, humans might have simply chosen to die and then be assumed into heaven.

I think I see a problem with this: in Catholic teaching, human nature is incomplete without the body. The Catechism says that the body and soul form a single nature, that the body shares in the dignity of the image of God, and that therefore, man may not despise his body. (CCC 364-365) In light of that, I can’t see what sense it would make for mankind to definitively stop their bodily existence. They would be giving up half their being and making themselves incomplete persons.

For all these reasons, I think it is safe to say that, if mankind had not fallen from grace, we would still continue to live a bodily existence. I hope that helps.


#5

Good point. In addition, only a hyper-literalist interpretation, which uses its own eisegesis to suggest that carnivores started off as herbivores (vegan lions? :hmmm:), would suggest that physical death was part of paradise.

Therefore, it is my understanding that death is not absolutely a punishment for original sin. Only in the case of humans.

And, the ‘death’ that results from sin is the loss of eternal life.

Three options present themselves to my mind: one, they might have stopped having sexual relations after the earth was full. God had commanded mankind to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Once the mission was accomplished, perhaps they would have all been celibates.

Hmm… that doesn’t seem to work. After all, marriage is that union in which the two become one – and the Church affirms that the marital embrace does more than provide for progeny; it unites the spouses. Universal celibacy stands at odds with that aspect of marital life.


#6

I don’t think it is at odds with that, and one reason why is, one day, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Perhaps when “fill the earth” became fulfilled, the earth would be renewed and the celibate kind of life that we look forward to would begin. If it won’t be at odds with the purpose of marriage in the future, perhaps whatever conditions will make it so I’m the future would be realized in this world, if the need had arisen.

I don’t think you have to agree with me or anything, it’s all just speculative theology.


#7

That argument only works if you take Genesis literally, which I don’t.

I think I see a problem with this: in Catholic teaching, human nature is incomplete without the body. The Catechism says that the body and soul form a single nature, that the body shares in the dignity of the image of God, and that therefore, man may not despise his body. (CCC 364-365) In light of that, I can’t see what sense it would make for mankind to definitively stop their bodily existence. They would be giving up half their being and making themselves incomplete persons.

This is part of the problem that I was bringing up - if the body and soul form a single nature, then the divorce of them that occurs during bodily death goes against nature, and thus that cannot be how things ought to be. The only two solutions for this that I can think of are that humanity either was rendered immortal until the Fall (my concerns about which I’ve raised above), or that humanity was meant to be assumed into heaven upon biological death.

My question is which one of these solutions does the Church teach is correct.


#8

Aah! If the suggestion is that once the earth was ‘filled’, the eschaton would begin, then that’s a different story. However, I took your assertion to mean that we were talking about this earth, though… :wink:


#9

In Eden, Adam and Eve lived body and soul in perfect friendship with God. I don’t think there would have been any point to heaven until sin messed up the Eden arrangement.


#10

:hmmm:


#11

“For the wages of sin is death” No sin, no death, no weird separation of body and soul.


#12

I think it works because the argument doesn’t depend on the Scripture text I cited. I cited that to support a point I was making about Catholic theology, but the Catholic doctrine about man’s natural mortality would be true even if the Bible didn’t have those verses. The verses say that the pre-fall humans needed something extra in order to live forever, and that supports what we as Catholics say whether we take the part about the fruit literally or not.

This is part of the problem that I was bringing up - if the body and soul form a single nature, then the divorce of them that occurs during bodily death goes against nature, and thus that cannot be how things ought to be.

I agree.

The only two solutions for this that I can think of are that humanity either was rendered immortal until the Fall (my concerns about which I’ve raised above), or that humanity was meant to be assumed into heaven upon biological death.

What about the three alternatives I suggested? I.e., humanity could have become celibates upon running out of room, or they could use technology to make more room, or God could use His almighty power to make more room?


#13

It’s important to remember what the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. The definition of Pope Pius IX states that “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” The key points are that she was “preserved” and that “in the first instance of her conception.” This is important because it shows she was not free from sin by nature as some said in former times. She was not conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, not was she descended from an uncorrupted line. She was subject to the law of sin and death just like all humanity.

What it does mean is that she was preserved from the stain of sin and always filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit for every instant of her life. But this is not really any different from those regenerated in baptism, only she always enjoyed that grace always and never had any stain of sin. So if an infant is baptized and he dies, how is he different in this regard to the Blessed Virgin. The infant no longer has any stain of original sin, which is blotted out in baptism, nor has he committed any sin which bears the penalty of death. But they still share in the same corrupted humanity that we all have, the Blessed Virgin included, and still suffer the temporal penalties of the sin of our first parent Adam.

So, I don’t think we can argue from Mary’s death that humans would have died apart from sin.

For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living. For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth. For justice is perpetual and immortal. But the wicked with works and words have called it to them: and esteeming it a friend have fallen away, and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.


#14

Except for being where God dwells?


#15

Adam and Eve dwelled with God in Eden. Having one’s body and soul separate and the soul go to heaven while the body rots away is not a better deal than Eden. That’s why after the Second Coming we are all reunited with our bodies and will once again dwell in a physical way with God in the New Jerusalem.


#16

God didn’t “dwell in Eden,” although Adam and Eve did have direct access to Him there, on occasion.


#17

In Exodus: And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst./ I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate, to serve me as priests. 45 And I will dwell among the people of Israel, and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

God dwelled among his fallen children- but not with his sinless ones in Eden?


#18

Are you saying that because God dwells among His people that He does NOT dwell in Heaven at the same time? Are you trying to put limits on God?


#19

We know that, although God was literally present (periodically) with the Israelites on the ark of the covenant, no one actually saw Him.

We know that, although God was literally present (periodically) with Adam & Eve in the garden, it seems that they saw Him.

We know that God is always present in heaven, and that, there, the angels and saints always behold the Beatific Vision.

I think you’re taking too literal an interpretation of the word “dwelt”, and that’s causing you to misread this situation.


#20

The church does not teach that Mary “died” and then was assumed into heaven. Nor does it teach that she didn’t “die”. It simply has no teaching on this point. Accordingly, using Mary’s “death” as a fundamental premise dooms your argument. Mary in fact may not have died. We simply don’t know.


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