-Wir sein pettler. Hoc est verum.--"We are beggars. This is true."--Martin Luther-

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lutheran Quote of the Day: Malysz on the Primal Nature of the Command

"What is significant about Adam is that he alone becomes the locus of God's self-sharing. In Adam God reveals himself as self-giving, as love. Through creation, he who already perfectly and sufficiently affirms otherness within himself--as Father, Son and Holy Spirit-- freely reaches out to another. On other words, man is the only creature willed by God for its own sake. Such is the nature of love. It affirms another not because of a vested interest, but freely and disinterestedly, for the other's sake. It finds the other beautiful and interesting.

"God's love, as it finds beauty and a source of interest in the other, truly creates the other to be beautiful and interesting. Thus, surveying his creative work, God was able to conclude approvingly that "it was very good" (Gn 1:31). The divine self-sharing manifests itself, in the first place, in the act of creation itself. But it goes much further. Man receives God's blessing, as he it told to "be fruitful and increase in number." All that God has created is now entrusted to him to rule over and to subdue (Gn 1:28). What this means is that creation is God's gift to be used in a meaningful and responsible way. Finally, God shares with man his own being. The latter not only has a direct and personal experience of his Creator, but is himself created to reflect the being of God.

"Man is created with a capacity to love and to reciprocate love. Like God he has the ability to go beyond himself. In the same way that God affirms otherness within himself, man, too, is made to affirm another, so that the two "will become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). Further he is endowed with the capacity to affirm creation--it finds its meaning in his responsible and God-like stewardship. As one commentator put it, "while [man] is not divine, his very existence bears witness to the activity of God in the life of the world." In other words, just as God finds Adam and Eve worthwhile and interesting in and of themselves, humans, likewise, are to find God's gift of creation worthwhile in and of itself. Creation is not to be abused. Humans are created to love God, their fellow man, and God’s gift of creation. By definition, they are social and vocational beings, relating to others in such a way as to further their good through God appointed means. In so doing, they surrender their being in all its individualism only to gain it back, in, with and through the being of another. Only by receiving and giving can they realize their humanity. Only thus can they be human beings.

"It has already been indicated that love consists in self-giving. Naturally there can be no love under coercion. Thus with its origin in the divine love, human existence is one of freedom. God did not create automatons but beings that were beautiful, interesting and worthwhile for their own sake—individuals with the capacity, of their own free will, to reflect the love received. A loving relationship by nature implies an option for un-love. Love as self-giving implies the possibility of rejection. It is in this context of what love is that the presence in the garden of the tree of knowledge of good and evil finds its purpose. To Adam and Eve was entrusted all that God had created with the exception of one tree, of which they were expressly forbidden to eat. In negative terms, the tree presents itself as an alternative to God's love; it makes the possibility of choosing un-love, or self-love, a real one. In positive terms, it underscores the free and self-giving character of the divine-human relationship, pointing to the centrality of love in the constitution of man. From man's perspective, it makes love possible. Finally, it points to the fundamental significance of trust as an inseparable aspect of love. Adam and Eve knew their creator intimately in his self-sharing. All they were and all that they had came from him. It would seem there surely was a significant basis for trust. And yet, incomprehensibly but in how familiar a way, they gave credence to the serpent's deceitful promise.

"The fall is often portrayed as a transgression of what seemed to be an otherwise arbitrary command. We have already demonstrated that the command was far from arbitrary. Neither was it meant to stress the importance of divinely established order, as if God's self-giving were a mere show. The command was not there to put man in place and show him who really was in charge. On the contrary, it was there to complete his humanness in its capacity for love and freedom."

-Piotr Malysz, “Third Use of the Law in Light of Creation and the Fall,” Logia 11, no. 3 (2002), 13.

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