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August 12, 2005

Ch. XIV. Q. 88. Man's Primitive State

INASMUCH as man was not made naturally self-sufficient, but required divine assistance in order to avoid sin and advance on the lines foreordained for him, he was endowed in his primitive state with supernatural grace, including the gift of the Holy Spirit. This endowment was however conditional, its retention and its beneficial results depending upon man's coöperative response and obedience to divine precepts.1

2. The spiritual state to which grace elevated our first parents is called "original righteousness,"2 because it made possible a sinless advance to perfect righteousness of character, after the likeness of God, through regulation of animal propensities by man's spirit in obedience to the will of God. But man could not at the outset possess actualized virtues, for in his case these are always fruits of probationary experience rightly utilized. Furthermore primitive grace was not irresistible, but left its recipients capable of failure in the obedience which was demanded of them.3

3. The symbolic imagery of Eden fittingly exhibits the combination of natural and of supernatural elements and factors of primitive human life and probation. There were natural resources to develop and enjoy; and, so long as man remained obedient, a sacramental food of immortality was available. But there was also the possibility of gaining knowledge of evil by tasting of it, by admitting it into his experience.

4. Adam was of course but an inexperienced child, although endowed with grace; but he enjoyed some kind of communion with his Maker, wherein he had the opportunities of religion and of that self-surrender which sacrifice expresses among ancient peoples.4

5. In so far as moral obligations, however elementary they may have been, were imposed upon Adam, and the blessings of immortaliry, however inadequately understood, were promised to him, be was brought into a covenant with God, symbolized by the tree of knowledge, the fruit of which he was forbidden to eat, and by the tree of life, of whose fruit he was permitted to partake. The plain implication of the Eden narrative, as interpreted in the reflected light of the redemption, is that if he had persevered in obedience he would have attained to glorification without experiencing death to which mankind is natuarlly liable.5

6. Primitive man built no permanent structures, and left no lasting evidences of his condition; and our only available knowledge concerning his moral state is derived from the significance which the symbolical Eden narrative acquires when we reflect upon the state to which redeeming grace is intended to restore mankind. The so called "primitive savagery" is to be regarded as the condition of fallen man when he had advanced sufficiently in material arts to leave abiding traces of his degradation.6

1 On man's primitive state, Creation, ch. viii; Evolution, pp. 128-133 and Lec. v.; St. Thomas, I. xciii-cii; J.A. Mæhler, Symbolism, Bk. I. Pt. I, ch. i; St. Athanasius, de Incarn., 3-5; J.B. Mozley, Predestination (Svo. edit.), pp. 90-97, 109-112; Wilhelm and Scannell, Cath. Theol., Pt. II, ch. iii; Bp. Bull, Discourses/cite>, V; A.P. Forbes, Thirty-Nine Arts., ix. pp. 140-142.

2 Called "original justice" by Roman Catholic writers.

3 Creation, pp. 265-268.

4 Cf. Q. 87.4, above.

5 Cf. Rom. v. 12; Creation, ch. vi. 12.

6 Creation, ch. ix. 11.

Posted by AKMA at August 12, 2005 12:45 PM