Lawrence Feingold on Original Justice and Original Sin

Oct 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On September 28, the feast of the martyr St. Wenceslaus in the Catholic liturgical calendar, and also the feast of Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish calendar, Professor Lawrence Feingold of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology and author of The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas and his Interpreters and the three volume series The Mystery of Israel and the Church gave a lecture titled “Original Justice and Original Sin” to the Association of Hebrew Catholics. The audio recordings of the lecture and of the following Q&A, along with outlines of each, are available below. This lecture builds on the previous lecture discussed in “Nature, Grace and Man’s Supernatural End: Feingold, Kline, and Clark.”

Lawrence Feingold


The importance of the truths about original justice and original sin. (1′)

Our experience of original sin (2′), and the opposition between our rational appetite (i.e. our will) and our sensible appetites (3′)

Original Justice (18′ 34″)

Genesis 2-3
Why the grace Adam and Eve had received prior to the fall was above human nature, and was a participation in the divine nature.
The other supernatural gifts they had: faith, hope, and charity, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, infused cardinal virtues (28′)

Preternatural gifts (32′ 30″)

Immortality – [mortality is natural to us] (33′ 45″)
Impassibility – [passibility is natural to us] (36′ 20″)
Infused knowledge – [ignorance is natural to us] (37′ 30″)
Integrity – [concupiscence is natural to us] (37′ 54″)

Original Harmonies (42′ 00″)

Error of Martin Luther regarding original justice (47′ 50″)

Why the supernatural and preternatural gifts being above human nature does not entail that human nature is bad or defective. (51′ 11″)

The Original Sin: In What Does It Consist (52′ 42″)

Dominum et vivificantem
The true and false ways of deification: obedience in grace, and disobedience in autonomy
Human sin is a turning away from God and involves suspicion of God

The Consequences of Original Sin: Loss of Original Justice (64′ 35″)

The loss of the gifts above nature, both for them and for all their descendants.
Why should the sin of Adam affect us today? (67′ 40″)
Responsibility and dignity (69′)
Our nature was not essentially corrupted, but stripped of supernatural and preternatural gifts.

Questions and Answers:

(1) Did the angels receive sanctifying grace in order to achieve friendship with God? (1′)

(2) If God gives man sanctifying grace to enable man to bridge the infinite distance and share in the divine life, then why couldn’t God endow man with the gift of sanctifying grace as natural, that is, as part of the nature of man? (4′ 50″)

(3) If integrity is an additional preternatural gift so that God could have given friendship but not integrity, would this mean that man by nature is incomplete, since his full completion would be found in [the] harmony [due to the gift of integrity]? (8′ 55″)

(4) Did Adam and Eve also have natural justice and natural love for God? (10′ 22″)

(5) If God had not given Adam and Eve sanctifying grace and the preternatural gifts, they would have had to wrestle with concupiscence. Wouldn’t that make them naturally sinful, and therefore naturally disordered and defective? (12′ 43″)

(6) If the parts of the body are not naturally at odds with the body, then why exactly must the sense appetites by nature be at odds with reason rather than naturally docile to reason? (20′ 34″)

(7) If concupiscence, mortality and passibility are lost in glorification in heaven, why isn’t this a case of grace destroying nature, since they belong to us by nature? (22′ 22″)

(8) Which of the preternatural gifts was it by which the rest of material creation was subject to man? (23′ 43″)

(9) Before original sin what was the deficiency in man that enabled him to be tempted and to desire autonomy to be disobedient? (24′ 15″)

(10) If Adam and Eve were obedient, and the good children came along would they be going through their own temptations by the evil one, and falling or not falling, on their own? (27′ 11″)

(11) If we are raised to believe that angels are above human beings, then why would an angel not be able to naturally have a friendship with God? (27′ 54″)

(12) Because of sin, therefore Adam lost what didn’t belong to human nature, namely, integrity, holiness, innocence and justice. Would you say that free will was weakened? (28′ 40″)

(13) Is faith for Adam and Eve given differently than for us? (29′ 06″)

(14) Do angels have souls, and how do they get sanctifying grace? (29′ 49″)

(15) Is libertarianism just pride taken to an extreme of no boundaries? (33′ 31″)

(16) What was the happiness of the happy fault (felix culpa)? (36′ 03″)

The mp3s for both the lecture and the Question and Answer session can be downloaded here.

Little Flower of Lisieux, keep us in your heart, and so always in the center of our Lord’s Sacred Heart.

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  1. This is something that I’ve wondered about for some time.

    WRT immortality, one has to point out that there is a Tree of Life in the Garden? Putting a useless tree into the Garden for no other reason than for God to say “na-na-na-na-na, you can’t have this” if man fell from Grace, is inconsistent with what is revealed about God.

    So why would such a thing be needed if Adam and Ever were naturally immortal? The Bible actually has more to say about this. The tree of life is also in Revelations and it is described as having leaves for the healing of nations, and throughout scripture the tree of life is described as wisdom. In Revelations the tree of life bears fruit. Catholic Tradition also names the Cross as the Tree of Life and given the connection between the Cross and the Eucharist, the fruit of the Tree of Life might have actually been the Eucharist.

    Given this, the preternatural gifts might not have been automatically a part of natural man but as a result of the Tree of Life. Genesis makes it clear that immortality would have continued if God had allowed Adam to remain in the garden, so losing access to the Tree of Life was equivalent to the loss of the sacraments that gave Adam and Eve the preternatural gifts given through God’s grace. Why make man depend on the “Garden sacraments” to have preternatural gifts rather than just giving them to us? Precisely because we are creatures, that are radically dependent on God’s Grace for everything the have and everything we are, and because matter is good.

  2. Peace be with you, Anil,

    It is important to remember that, while Adam and Eve had a flawless nature, they did not have beatific vision. The tree of life is the ancient precursor to Jesus Christ on the cross, from whom the fruit of life, the Eucharist, comes from. Seeing as how God is not merely sufficient in his outpouring of grace, but superabundant, it would seem natural that God would allow his creatures to physically experience his grace in such and intimate fashion. Compare the human nature to be as an un-pop-able balloon being filled up with water (grace). When the will rejects grace, water is voluntarily let out of the balloon. The balloon, then, becomes smaller and has a smaller capacity to hold grace. the balloon is not naturally infinite (as per the nature of the balloon), but always increasing in size by the reception of grace. Because Adam and Eve did not have beatific vision, they could still increase the size of their balloon, so to speak. This theory (which I synthesized on the spot, so it may not be particularly accurate in all facets) definitely outlines what God intended humanity to experience from the get-go: an ever increasing intimate relationship with our Father.

  3. Are we permitted to suppose that the testing in the Garden represented a trial for Adam and Eve which, had it been passed successfully, would have resulted in some sort of maturing for Adam and Eve? A reward, perhaps, in which God, as a gift of love, would cooperate to produce the next level of supernatural grace in their souls and enable them, while in the body, to attain the Beatific Vision?

    Or is there some reason why such a supposal runs contrary to good theology? Or that I’m going in the right direction, but perhaps using terminology incorrectly?

  4. R.C.,
    I will just take a quick stab at your very interesting and good question.

    From the wiki on the Felix Culpa (happy fault):

    The Latin expression felix culpa derives from the writings of St. Augustine regarding the Fall of Man, the source of original sin: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to allow no evil to exist.”[1] The phrase appears in lyric form sung annually in the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil: “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem,” “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.” The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas[2] cited this line when he explained how the principle that “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom” underlies the causal relation between original sin and the Divine Redeemer’s Incarnation, thus concluding that a higher state is not inhibited by sin. The Catholic saint Ambrose also speaks of the fortunate ruin of Adam in the Garden of Eden in that his sin brought more good to humanity than if he had stayed perfectly innocent.[3]

    In light of the theology behind the exclaimation of “felix culpa”, I don’t think we can clearly see an end game of events after Adam not sinning. In the case of his not sinning, even the best scenario of his recieving the “next level of supernatural grace” would never equal what it is for him (and us) now that that happy fault took place and Christ is our redeemer. Just like the fairy tale would just simply never be as good without the hero destroying the villain. No villain, no hero. Or at least not as great of a hero. Now I am not saying that his not sinning was not possible, in some fatalistic way. No way. I just think we can never (on this earth) know what would have happened, and that after all is said and done, we can be happy Adam sinned so as not to find out.
    So for me, your interesting question will always remain in shadow. We just can not know. And the more we delve into it, we will aproach issues of how God’s sovereinty and our free will relate, and ultimately we end up with theodicy.

    Personally, I have found the movie The Tree of Life to give about as satisfying an answer as anything else to the theodicy question, which is to say it is not satisfying, but satiating until we meet Him face to face.

    My 2 cents.

    David Meyer

  5. R.C. (re: #3)

    Yes, of course. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would not have died, because [human] death came into the world through sin. And because as explained in the article above they were already in a state of grace, which is ordered to the beatific vision, had they remained in agape they would have merited the beatific vision, without first passing through death, and thus without ever being separated from their bodies. (See comment #53 in the “Pelagian Westminster?” thread.) Eden was a test for Adam and Eve, much as the present life is for all of us. (I addressed this briefly in “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life.” See also my 2007 post titled “Eve, Luther, and Authority.”) Had Adam and Eve not sinned, all their children would have been born already in a state of grace, and not needing baptism; they would have been immaculate from conception, though able to sin, as Adam and Eve were able to sin.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Update: On the existence of Adam and Eve, see “Did Adam and Eve really Exist?

  6. David (re: #4),

    I think we need to be careful regarding the felix culpa, because otherwise we can make it seem that it was better for Adam to sin than not to sin, and that therefore if only he could have had more of a God’s-eye point of view, he could have justified his sin in this very way. This is why it is better to be like Mary (i.e. immaculately conceived and perpetually without any sin, original or actual) than to be like me (i.e. a sinner saved by grace) or the ‘good’ thief who converted only at the very end of his life on the cross next to Jesus. For this reason the ‘felix,’ of felix culpa should be understood in a qualified way, not as meaning that it was better [unqualified] for Adam to sin than to obey, but that through and out of Adam’s sin, God has marvelously and beautifully brought to us goods that would have been unavailable to us had Adam not sinned. (See comment #30 in the “Nature, Grace, and Man’s Supernatural End” thread.) Also, Prof. Feingold briefly addresses the felix culpa in Question #16 in the Q&A above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  7. R.C.

    Re: your post # 3. You ask:

    … is there some reason why such a supposal runs contrary to good theology?

    R.C., what you wrote seems correct to me. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 397- 399, speaks of the temptation in the Garden as a test from God, (see the heading “Freedom put to the test”,

    If Adam had passed his test, would God have rewarded Adam for his obedience? CCC 398 states that Adam was “constituted in a state of holiness” and “was destined to be fully ‘divinized’, by God in glory.” Which raises this question for me, if Adam had been obedient instead of willfully disobedient with his freedom, why would God withhold from Adam the final destiny for which Adam had been created?

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