Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve

The other night one of my former roommates was watching The Two Towers while I was doing some research in the next room over. I ignored it for a while but eventually gave up on that endeavor and joined in on the viewing. Afterwards he and I got to talking about various 'historical' questions regarding the world of Tolkien and soon we were pouring over appendices and family trees and such things.

That, in turn, reminded me of an interesting idea that came to me some days before. Do you ever wonder what the world would have been like had death not entered the Garden? Many of the Church fathers argue that Adam was established by God as king over the whole world and I see no reason to disagree. After all, he would always be the oldest man living, with the most experience caring for God's creation. But think about it: as time progressed, not only would Adam's sons come along, but also his grandsons and great grandsons and so on, for countless generations. And each new generation would have known all of the preceding generations. (You might contend that this would soon get to be an awful lot of relatives to know, and that is true, but when your life has no end, you've got a lot of time to get to know them too.) I can just imagine wise old Adam traveling about the world, visiting his sons, his vassals, who might rule whole continents, and their sons and meeting the latest members of the 1,000th generation. Wild, eh?

(A brief aside here: some might contend that this whole vision is based on a literal reading of the first few chapters of Genesis, which might in fact only be a myth, meant metaphorically. I am willing to consider that possibility, but if that is the case, I think we first need to plumb the depths of the myth before we try to decide what it means. We are far too quick to jump to interpreting the myth, before we even think of its full implications.)

So I had this whole notion in my head of how countless generations would have lived side by side had death not come to the Garden, when I realized that this will actually happen in the life to come. Many pious traditions contend that Adam and Eve, after being the last to leave Purgatory, will take their rightful places of glory in heaven. Not only shall we be there, but also (God willing) shall our fathers and grandfathers and all the generations between us and our first parents. Isn't that wild? There are a few Civil War veterans among my ancestors and I often forget that they were actually real people and (perhaps even more amazing) I am of their own flesh and blood. But then to think that I will actually meet them, and spend eternity with them, and with all generations to the dawn of time... Wow! (Yes, it is possible that there will be a few gaps in that line, that not everyone will be in heaven, though that hardly makes the idea less stunning. Besides, von Balthasar, I think it is, holds out hope that no men will go to hell. I don't know his line of reasoning and I doubt I could understand it, but I'm willing to hope and trust in God's saving power.)

So now, when I read in the Chronicles of Narnia that we are Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, I sit up and take note.

This post originally appeared on December 20th, 2006 on the Quincy House blog.
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