Was paradise less perfect than the actual Heaven?

Hi, I have a question that once bothered me. Now it sprang up again.:slight_smile:

Did the original paradise (with Adam and Eve) lack some perfection with regards to the Heaven as we understand it in our Catholic theology? Is Heaven in some ways better than the paradise which God originally created?

I know - God said that everything was “good”. And Heaven surely is perfect in all regards. That’s why I’m asking if there’s any difference. Was it qualitatively the same? Where to search for the answer? Any insights? Thanks.

Hi Zemi,

Heaven is essentially the “Beatific Vision”, that is seeing God “face to face” as He really is. There is nothing to show that our first parents enjoyed the beatific vision.


Hi Verbum,

thanks for the answer. Now, it makes me think of two “problems”:

1.) Is it true that Adam and Eve very living in a non-perfect “world”? God says everything was “good” but I would argue that seeing God face to face is “better” than the negative. Don’t you think? :slight_smile:
2.) If they lived in a non-perfect world, did God intend to make one day a perfect “world” for them? If the assumption is false, than we were really lucky (it seems) that Adam sinned so that we get the chance to enter into the “perfect Heaven”.

Where’s flaw in my reasoning? I wonder :slight_smile:

I do not think that the original pre-fall “Paradise” is equivalent in goodness to the eternal Heaven.

It can be shown logically that a being completely fulfilled - as humans are in the Beatific Vision - cannot possibly turn away from that fulfillment. And so, once experiencing the Beatific Vision, it would be logically impossible for a person to sin. Perhaps the technical possibility of sin would still exist, but no situation would ever occur in which someone who had received the Beatific Vision would turn away from God.

Seeing as Adam did distance himself from God, it would seem that logic indicates that his pre-fall state was not completely equivalent to the Beatific Vision. Perhaps it could be said that Adam was totally full of “natural happiness,” but not ultimate happiness.

I don’t think it was so much a fundamental or substantial difference that existed, but rather a difference in Adam’s openness to God. God gave Adam everything that he needed to be naturally happy, but Adam didn’t totally and utterly lay down his own will before God’s will. Until he was prepared to do this, he could not yet have experienced the Beatific Vision.

The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That is surely a parable of progress. This was always God’s plan.

I have no clue, but I’m wondering, wasn’t the Garden of Eden sort of a test? Humans were given free will, and an opportunity to choose for or against God, just like the angels had been previously. Perhaps had Adam and Eve not chosen to sin, they would have eventually been able to see God. But they messed up, death came into the world, and a “no humans” sign popped up by the gates of Heaven and stayed there until Jesus Christ suffered to redeem us… We’re pretty lucky, it seems, not because Adam sinned, since, I’d assume humanity would be in heaven had that not happened, but we’re lucky that we’re not all condemned to hell, as we should be.

My favorite theology professor had this to say about the difference between Heaven and Eden:

“Some people talk about the goal of life as ‘getting back to Eden’. I can tell you one thing–I ain’t going back to no garden!”

The heaven we may–God willing–enjoy will be quite different from Eden, and so much better!

This is because Christ, through His incarnation, death and resurrection, has made the beatific vision possible for us. Adam enjoyed perfect natural happiness; if he and Eve hadn’t sinned, they would have been perfected in natural justice, and could have enjoyed the beatific vision in that way if God had allowed it. But the coming of the Son of God has made our becoming sons of God possible, a way which was never open to Adam.

But they sinned–and to rectify this, God sent His Son for us. It is such a mystery and a sign of God’s greatness that He can bring about a better result than we would have had originally, even after our sin. This is why the Church proclaims in the Exultet: “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

Hm, so if Adam did not sin, what would be the plan then? :slight_smile: In what ways could the people of Eden be more perfect if they weren’t already?

In Eden, Adam and Eve were ‘good’. I guess you could say that they were perfect…God created them and saw that they were good. But if/when we go to heaven by the way opened to us by Christ, we will be better than ‘good’–we will be raised above our natural capacities as human beings through the grace of God.

Adam and Eve, even if they had not fallen, had no way to be raised above their natural capacities as we do. Perhaps it would have been in God’s plan to grant them the beatific vision and therefore raise them above that state, but we can never know and really can only speculate.

The important thing is that if they did not sin, Christ would not have come, and we would not have the possibility of the intimate union with God made possible by the incarnation. Perhaps there would have been another way–but this way is so incredible and perfectly suited to our human nature that it would have been better. Our God is so good! :thumbsup:

The important thing is that if they did not sin, Christ would not have come, and we would not have the possibility of the intimate union with God made possible by the incarnation.

Why couldn’t Christ have become man even if Adam and Eve didn’t sin? He probably wouldn’t have had to die, but the intricate union between human and divine natures would still have been established.

Speculation, of course. But its worth inspecting the means of our redemption and the causes for our need for salvation.

Let’s see if this makes it clearer for everyone.

Adam and Eve were created perfect by God and placed by him in a garden – Paradise, if you will. This garden was not heaven, but a paradise where they were protected from harm and had everything they needed. They had all the natural gifts man could have, plus preternatural gifts given them by God. These preternatural gifts enabled them, unlike us, to have complete control over their wills, intellect and emotions. They need never have sinned, or become sick or die, God’s plan being to take them to himself in heaven when their lives were through.

There was a test involved, however, which we all know they failed. In this test they were representing all of mankind as it’s perfect representives. As a result of this failure, man lost paradise and all the preternatural gifts (which resulted in what we call “original sin”). Since that time man has compounded his failure by personal sin upon sin.

Thanks be to God who, in his mercy, sent us a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who through his sacrifice on the Cross reversed Adam’s failure, paid for our sins and made is possible for us, through faith and baptism, to be restored to fellowship with God. Through this faith and our obedience we can one day be with God in heaven as was his plan all along.

I didn’t say the Son of God *couldn’t *have become incarnate if Adam and Eve didn’t sin, but that, given what we know of God’s will by divine revelation, he would not have. The only reason for the Incarnation which is given to us in Scripture is as a remedy for the fall of man; we have no reason to believe that it would have happened otherwise. Of course, because He is all-powerful, God could have of course still sent His Son. But would it perhaps have been the most fitting way to achieve man’s salvation? It seems not. Aquinas says it best:

For if man had not sinned, he would have been endowed with the light of Divine wisdom, and would have been perfected by God with the righteousness of justice in order to know and carry out everything needful. But because man, on deserting God, had stooped to corporeal things, it was necessary that God should take flesh, and by corporeal things should afford him the remedy of salvation. Hence, on John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh,” St. Augustine says (Tract. ii): “Flesh had blinded thee, flesh heals thee; for Christ came and overthrew the vices of the flesh.” - *ST *III.1.3ad1

Both Augustine and Aquinas clearly state that the reason for the incarnation is man’s sin, and this is a view firmly based in Scripture. Because man’s sin was of the flesh, it was by taking on flesh, sanctifying and glorifying it, that God could redeem man and rectify that sin. Without the fall, there was no ‘need’ to establish such a union in person of human and divine natures as we find in Christ. Salvation could have happened by another way. But after the fall, the most fitting way for salvation to take place was by the Incarnation–and therefore this is what we find has happened in the divinely revealed order.

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