Problem with the Catechism?


397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.

1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of** the material world** and man:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay… We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (*Rom 8:19-23)

1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to suscribe to the idea that the planet earth, and indeed the entire cosmos, has been somewhat affected, altered, as a consequence of Original Sin.

I understand though, that the conception of the universe in biblical times wasn’t the same as that of today >> But regardless of it, applied to a modern view of the universe, this idea of a cosmic fall with Man doesn’t make any sense to a contemporary person.

In a document titled ‘The interpretation of the Bible in the Church’ presented and published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1994, is mention of a hermeneutical principle referred to in english as ‘Actualization’

So, how can we actualize, adapt, translate, that idea today?


It makes perfect sense as it stands. Can you somehow disagree all life is subject to death and decay? Is that what God intended - Catholicism says no.


Please elaborate. What is “a modern view of the universe”? How is there a conflict with a cosmic fall?


I’d say the more significant problem is that this interpretation goes way beyond what is in the text. And maybe that’s what you’re saying?

Platonism run amuck.


It makes perfect sense as it stands. Can you somehow disagree all life is subject to death and decay? Is that what God intended - Catholicism says no.

Organisms “died” well before Man comes on the scene, from the animals to the plants to stars and galaxies…

I’m more than surprised that you don’t see where is the problem.

Please elaborate. What is “a modern view of the universe”? How is there a conflict with a cosmic fall?

Modern view of the universe, that is the universe from the Big Bang billions of years ago up until today. The cosmos as scientists and people understand it today.

The cosmos isn’t “fallen” in itself.

I’d say the more significant problem is that this interpretation goes way beyond what is in the text. And maybe that’s what you’re saying?

Platonism run amuck.

What I’m saying is that there’s no scenario in science of the universe (the earth and all the rest in space) having been in a “original state” (what is this original state?) when Man appeared, and then falling becoming in “bondage to decay” (?).

And I’m asking how we can “translate” that belief for people today, keeping the essence of it while changing its form if that is possible.


Right; I agree. And what I was getting at was that this notion that the material world is somehow fallen and decaying is much more at home in Greek Platonic philosophy than in Israelite religion.


Right; I agree. And what I was getting at was that this notion that the material world is somehow fallen and decaying is much more at home in Greek Platonic philosophy than in Israelite religion.

Yes :yup: and I don’t understand why the CCC dating back from the 90s keeps endorsing it. :hmmm:


According to the 1909 Biblical Commission regarding the first three chapters of Genesis, Catholics must believe the following:

  1. The creation of all things by God at the beginning of time
  2. The special creation of man
  3. Formation of the first woman from man
  4. The unity of the Human race
  5. Original happiness of first parents in a state of Justice and Immortality
  6. The divine command for man to prove obedience
  7. The transgression of that command at the instigation of the devil
  8. The fall of the first parents from their primitive state of innocence
  9. The promise of a future redeemer

There is nothing in the above proclamation about how the perfection of the cosmos must be understood. I believe the Church has not definitively proposed how exactly the cosmos was in a state of perfection prior to the fall of man, because that has not been clearly revealed. I imagine that is open to theological speculation. However, we know that our faith can not contradict reason. My thought is that the natural laws themselves may have been altered due to the fall. In science, we assume (logically) that the laws of nature have always existed as they are now…but of course that may not be true.


The Eastern Churches tend to view the SIN of man as a result of the fear of DEATH, not as many Western theologians teach - that DEATH resulted in the fallen state. So, while decay and death were present – the fear of this – as the Catechism states, man “let his trust in his Creator die in his heart” - the first step of DEATH. Which subsequently led to fear and sin, and man attempting to reverse Death on his own.


Have you not seen that the CCC is quoting Holy Scripture which is the word of God and divine revelation? The catholic faith is not based on the theories, assumptions, and guesswork of modern science but on certain truth which comes from God himself and divine revelation of which Holy Scripture is one of the sources of divine revelation, the other source being Sacred Tradition. The fall of Adam and Eve along with all of our own personal sins causes a perturbance in the whole universal order of the physical universe of which human beings are a part; for the whole physical creation was created by God for the sake of man and for his service. Sin disrupts not only our communion with God and our fellow human beings but it also disrupts our harmony with the physical universe which was created for man’s sake. As the CCC states which it is taking from Scripture, the sin of Adam and Eve broke our harmony with creation “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man” (cf. Gen. 3: 17-19; "cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you…). "Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay” (CCC#400, Romans 8:21).

“For God created man immortal…but through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:23). "As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin…(Romans 5:12). Since God created man immortal but people are dying everyday from disease, sickness, earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, famine, drought, etc., then it appears to me that there is a problem somewhere! No doubt, creation has become alien and hostile to mankind; and this began with the fall of our first parents.

Creation does not run itself but it is run by God and his providence. One of the punishments for the sin of Adam and Eve which is compounded by the sins of all their children is that harmony with creation has been broken and that is has become alien and hostile to man. It’s like the physical creation is revolting at mankind for the disobedience of mankind to the creator “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127: 1). “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate” (Psalm 104:14).

There is nothing to reconcile with what you call ‘contemporary man’ especially those who have no faith and don’t believe in God or divine providence or Holy Scripture which appears to me to be the kind of persons your talking about.


Have you not seen that the CCC is quoting Holy Scripture which is the word of God and divine revelation?

Yes I saw it. But the Word of God is not given to us in the absolute in the Scriptures. It’s not like with the Quran for Muslims, who believe that Angel Gabriel over a period revealed the quranic verses to Muhammad who recited and memorized them. The Judeo-Christian scriptures from the Christian Catholic point of view are as much the work of human authors as the work of God. The hagiographs are instruments of God to transmit His message, but they aren’t instruments in a passive sense. While the Holy Spirit is at work within them, invisibly, subtly, at the same time the human authors remain true authors and men who naturally in many ways are conditioned intellectually by the culture, time, world in which they live. Divine inspiration assumes and does not negate men’s intellectual categories. God we can say accomodates, comes down to the level of the authors. The Bible was written for us but not to us, but primarily to an ancient audience. So in many cases, to make the biblical message meaningful to a contemporary audience, there’s a translation so to speak, a new articulation, that has to be done.

Actualization is necessary because, although their message is of lasting value, the biblical texts have been composed with respect to circumstances of the past and in language conditioned by a variety of times and seasons. To reveal their significance for men and women of today, it is necessary* to apply their message to contemporary circumstances and to express it in language adapted to the present time**. This presupposes a hermeneutical endeavor, the aim of which is to go beyond the historical conditioning so as to determine the essential points of the message. …] It is not a matter of projecting novel opinions or ideologies upon the biblical writings, but of sincerely seeking to discover what the text has to say at the present time. …]*

The catholic faith is not based on the theories, assumptions, and guesswork of modern science

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. …] St Augustine



Its called the second rule of thermodynamics - the entire universe is in a constant state of decay - entropy - gradual decline into disorder.


Now it is.

But you are being awfully unimaginative and unscientific, by wanting to ignore the “figurative retelling of real events” interpretation and not wanting to put any work into interpreting it more literally, either.

So here’s one way to go at it.

The whole story of the Creation and the Fall is showing that, in the beginning, the physical universe of time and space was more connected to eternity than it is now. If you ever traipse along to the Book of Revelation, you will see that after the end of the world, the new heaven and earth will once more mingle matter and eternity.

So yeah, Eden was not the kind of place that can currently exist.

Basically, the Fall collapsed time/space into the kind of universe we now live in, thermodynamics and all. (Blah blah blah Schroedinger quantum.)

So sure, in our current universe, Adam’s Fall would affect events all the way back to the Big Bang and all the way forward to the end of the world, because God had set Adam in charge of tending all the universe and being its Head. (Not quite as powerful as Jesus’death and resurrection, which also had effects backward and forward in time, as thrle Church teaches us; but similar in scope of effects.)


I was agreeing with you - the universe went into a state of entropy at the fall and began to rot away - what did you think I was saying?
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I wonder if that means the earth will be mostly land without oceans


No, I did not see it. I was typing out this monster reply post, and on my tablet, that took a while…

“There will be no more sea” is talking about the symbolic meaning of oceans, which was that the sea was a zone of chaos, paganism, and monsters. Jewish prophecy and thought had a lot to say about what would happen to the various Biblical monsters representing chaos, in the Messianic age. (What’s for dinner on God’s holy mountain, mostly.)

Jesus’ command of the Sea of Galilee in the Gospels was one of the signs that He was God. (Psalms, the Book of Job, and the Book of Jonah talk a lot about God commanding the seas and sea creatures.) That is why “the brass sea” basin of water in the Temple was associated with purification, and “the glassy sea” before God’s throne in Revelation is also a positive symbol.

Obviously the picture of the River flowing out from the New Jerusalem means there will be plenty of water. But wherever it ends up, it will not be dangerous to humans anymore.


St. Thomas raised the basic question: What does Christ mean to a world made by God in perfect order and disrupted by original sin? All the Summa attempts to answer that question, an answer that has been satisfactory for centuries: Christ has restored the original order of the world. Christian theology has described the religion of order, and its doctrines are about a return to original order. Then Copernicus jolted man from the center of the universe, Darwin showed us quite dependent on our natural environment, and Freud revealed the dark forces of our subconscious as governing our actions in the world. The modern worldview generated by these cultural developments is quite different from the presupposition of medieval Christianity—a world created by God in perfect order and disrupted by original sin. God is no longer the God of a static world order but a God of a world in the process of becoming.

Medieval St. Thomas had a clear advantage to the modern theologian. He did not have to disconnect from a systematic formulation of Christian doctrine that was very closely related to a cosmology that is no longer accepted. However, how does a Christian today relate a Christology to any current worldview given the postmodern view that any worldview can only be tentative? The more durable doctrines of salvation are more independent of cosmology.


Very good:)

But what I think these passages are relaying is that:

1 God has a precise plan for both the Universe and creation of humanity

2 The Universe exist that man MIGHT discover God through its exostence

3 Man alone [who also alone emulates our GOD] is able to discern this

Isaiah 43: 7 &21

[7] every one who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."

[21] the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.

4 God remains in charge

God Bless


What I said in response to you in my previous comment was to highlight the human aspect, side, of the Scriptures. My point is simply that the Word of God is given to us through the words of men, and their words, being the product of their mental activities, bear the mark of a time period, culture etc. conditioning.

I was taught that we must first search out the author’s intention in writing to his immediate audience. What he really wanted to say, to communicate, to teach. Once this is done and the author’s intention of communication is made clearer, then we should ask ourselves in which way it speaks to us to the present, what can we 21th c. christians draw from it which has transcendance and relevance for us today.

While I was in my first year of Bachelor in Theology in a Catholic university (I did one year but didn’t pursue), an Assistant Professor and Doctor in Theology once said to me in response to a question I had asked:

…] We replace and appreciate the sacred author in his time, in his original society, in the collective psychology of his era. This step of the literary critic takes into account this original context and confronts it to the historical development of mentalities. Which authorizes us to go beyond a purely literal reading of the Scriptures (word for word).

I didn’t mean to say that there haven’t been instances in Israel history where God reveals something more directly, differently than in inspiration which is more interior and subtle, like through a vision in a dream or awake, or the case of the incarnation with Christ. But even there there’s a pedagogy of accommodating or adapting the language.

When our Lord said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Mt 12: 40. You don’t actually believe that the realm of the spirits of the dead He went to was actually under the earth right? Because the ancients really believed so. The Hebrews called it Sheol, the pagan Greeks Hades. Check it out.

Or when He said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Mt 13: 31-32. The mustard seed isn’t the smallest of all seeds. The orchid seed is smaller. But His disciples didn’t know it and to them it was the mustard seed the smallest.

Or when Christ after His resurrection went “up”, ascended, before the eyes of His disciples, Did he really go in some geographic place up there? “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee…” Acts 1: 9-11. I don’t think so. But the Apostles, as the other Hebrews of their time, thought that where God is, is above the firmament. That’s why at Christ return it is said that He will “descend from heaven” 1 Thess 4: 16.

Accommodation or ‘synkatabasis’ (Divine condescension) is I think one of the key concepts to make sense of the Bible today. The constitution Dei Verbum of the Council Vatican II speaks of it: In Sacred Scripture, therefore, while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous “condescension” of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, “that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature.” For the words of God, expressed in human language, have been made like human discourse, just as the word of the eternal Father, when He took to Himself the flesh of human weakness, was in every way made like men.

I think there are in the Scriptures scientific, historical… errors, but they’re there used, assumed as vessel, vehicle, to pass a message, and as such are part of the inspiration, though incidental to it.


Amen to that.

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