Iago and Godly Creativity

Early last year, I discussed an idea that I called “the Iago problem.” I argued that one answer to the question “why are there no Mormon Shakespeares” was that church members may lack the skill to breathe life into a truly evil character like Iago.

Recently, I rethought the question. And now, I’m not sure that the Iago problem is really much of a problem.

In a comment to Rosalynde’s post on creativity, I wondered whether all human creativity is simply ” the immature manifestation of a creative instinct which will come to full fruition when we design entire worlds and plans of salvation. ”

If that’s true — if our creativity in this life are seeds of our godly creativity — then ought we worry about our inability to craft Iagos or Amalakiahs? The answer all depends on whether God creates such characters. And this takes us to two related questions — first, should God create Iagos, and second, does God create Iagos?

There are good reasons why God should not try to create Iagos. Othello’s Iago is a destructive force, whose scheming leads to murder. Real-life analogue Amalakiah similarly blazed a path of destruction, sin, unhappiness, and loss. There may be limited reasons to affirmatively create evil agents — they do facilitate the “I will scourge Jerusalem with Babylon” types of prophecy — but it is likely that the good very seldom outweighs the bad, especially in cases of extreme evil like Iago or Amalakiah. In addition, there seems to be no reason within the Plan of Salvation to create a soul incapable of doing good. It seems clear that God should not go out of his way to create Iagos.

If God should not create Iago, does God create Iago?

It’s not clear that He does. Why would God, being perfect, create something which He should not? And why would He create a soul so rebellious that it is ultimately incapable of allowing itself to be redeemed? He would not. This suggests that God created the good elements of Iago, but that Iago’s dark side — the aspects of his character that make him interesting in literature — come from a different source.

(And if this is true, then Iago’s turning to a different source of creation may be the underlying cause of all of his evil — he is rejecting his potential as a son of God and rejecting the aspects of his personality that God created, exchanging them for a character drawn from other sources.)

Thus, creation of Iagos may not be a part of godly creativity at all. As Gods, we will spend our time creating good and combating evil — not trying to create more seductive, more refined evil.

I still wish that Mormon authors were better at depicting evil — I think that it usually makes a more interesting story. But if our creativity in this life is really about practicing for godly creativity, then I’m less worried about Mormon authors’ inability to create Iagos.

48 comments for “Iago and Godly Creativity

  1. July 5, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    Isn’t the relevant question not whether or not God can create Iago — but rather whether he can understand him and his motivations?

    Or in other words although I tend to agree that “human creativity is simply ‘the immature manifestation of a creative instinct which will come to full fruition when we design entire worlds and plans of salvation.'” That doesn’t mean that creation in the spiritual/physical sense is completely analogous to the sort of creativity that goes into art, esp. narrative art. God is both a creator and a storyteller. He can’t create a Hitler (imo), but I would bet that he can create an Iago. Knowledge of evil doesn’t presuppose am inability or lack of will to combat it.

    —-
    On some days I think that “immature manifestation” is a bit too generous of a description. At times artistic creation appears (to me) to be a false priesthood, an ugly mockery, a fetishization of the inability to have the type of faith that can co-participate with God in matters of creation.

  2. Cracker
    July 5, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    Why are there no Mormon Shakespeares? For the same reason that there are no Catholic, Methodist, Universalist, Baptist, Scientologist, Jehovah Witness, Adventist, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic or Atheist Shakespeares. There’s only one, baby, and no one has been able to match him.

  3. A. Greenwood
    July 5, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    William Morris is exactly right. Being unable to portray evil realistically is not a failure of creativity–we’re all evil so we don’t have to imagine it. It’s a failure of empathy and self-understanding.

    The real role of creativity here is in the means and method of portraying evil. This kind of creativity–involving thousands of subtle decisions about plot, pacing, dialogue, word choice, what is shown and what is not, etc. (and this is just in the medium of writing)–requires the sort of bourgeouis discipline that Kingsley was talking about on Rosalynde W’s creativity post.

  4. July 5, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    I think the problem is an equivocation with the word “create”. Just has “Hamlet does not exist” is a true statement, even so is “Iago does not exist.” If Iago does not exist, then he could not have been created. Thus, no one ever “created” Iago.

    God can create the fictional character of Iago, just as any Mormon can. But God cannot create Iago. The negative parts of Iago were certainly not created by God. I agree with Kaimi’s statement, “he is rejecting his potential as a son of God and rejecting the aspects of his personality that God created.” Sin, I believe, is a result of going against who we really are.

    But I don’t know that God creates people at all. I’m not sure that Iago turned to another source of creation for his evil. I think God simply provides a way for people to create themselves.

    As William mentioned, I don’t see any relationship between this type of creation and the creation of art. Creation of Iago is certainly a bad thing, but the creation of the character of Iago in narrative is a good thing. Only Iago himself can do the former, but anyone can do the latter.

  5. Sam Payne
    July 5, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    1. Are we really playing the “you know he’s Canadian” game?

    2. I think that the real problem is that Mormon authors, by and large, write for the mormon audience. (at least the famous mormon authors. ) You can’t be shakespear and write for a limited audience.

  6. Richard T
    July 5, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    So . . . we have no Mormon Shakespeares because we have trouble developing evil characters. But we may have to create evil people someday, and, in line with your “immature manifestation” idea, we, perhaps, should therefore be concerned with being able to craft evil characters in today’s creative work.

    BUT . . . you can’t think of any reason why God should or does create such characters . . .

    ergo . . . you’re still looking for reasons why we should be interested in developing evil characters in literature?

    did i follow you? sometimes tough to do here on Intellectual Mormon Muscle Beach, so i thought i’d check.

    it seems to me that Moroni 7 suggests that before we can lay hold upon every good thing, we need to come to know good from evil “as the daylight is from the dark night,” (moroni 7:15). if a knowledge of good and evil precludes our ability to lay hold upon good things, charity being the greatest, and, if, without charity, we have failed in our purpose here on the earth . . .

    then it could be argued that without a knowledge of evil, which comes to us coupled with a knowledge of good as we search things out in the light of Christ, and which would form the basis for our ability to accurately depict evil in literature . . . we likewise fail and are nothing?

  7. July 5, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    William Morris said:

    > God is both a creator and a storyteller. He can’t create a Hitler (imo)…

    But God did create a Hitler, unless you’re saying that Hitler wandered in from some other creation.

  8. Seth Rogers
    July 5, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    The reason there are no Shakespears at all (of whatever ethnic or cultural stripe) is that the gateway to wide distribution of your ideas is controlled by marketing teams at large publishing firms.

    It used to be that the editors decided what got published. Now the process is almost exclusively controlled by bean-counters in the marketing department. Guys who wouldn’t know a good book if it walked up and slapped them.

    This alone explains why most of the stuff coming out in paperback is sheer garbage.

  9. Jack
    July 5, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    I wonder if , sometimes, we Mormons get our virtues mixed up. We might be afraid of something like MacBeth (which IMO is Shakespeares blackest play) because we may think Shakespeare believes witchcraft to have some sort of efficacy. But that misses the point. Even if Shakespeare held such a view we have to remember that he ascribes no virtue to evil. The wonder of something like “MacBeth” is that we are instructed in the foibles of our fallen nature. It is “terrifying AND wonderful” (as per Peter Schafer) to witness the corruption of a fictitious soul as he plays into the hands of the weaknesses and temptations that we–every one of us– know all too well.

  10. Mike Wilson
    July 5, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    Two points:

    1) Orson Scot Card creates a reasonably evil character in the Ender’s series: Achilles.

    2) In response to EJS in #7: The question is what does creation mean? God did not “create” the evil in Hitler. However, where did God pull our always-existing intelligences from? Obviously all were not the same. Some may have been evil by nature (or at least exercised agency wickedly prior to being pulled into existance with Heavenly Father)–self-existing intelligences that choose (eternally) to not respond to God’s influence. This brings the question of the origin of evil which I know has been discussed around these parts before.

  11. A. Greenwood
    July 5, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    Achilles is way, way down on the list of interesting evil characters that Card has created. Peter Wiggin is one of the best, but that’s only if you discount the Shadow series, in which Peter is generally a decent person.

  12. Mike Wilson
    July 5, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    Peter ends up doing the right thing (in the Shadow series). Achilles never does! Other possibilities? There are some mentioned in passing, but not many that Card develops as fully as he does Achilles (again in the Shadow series).

  13. danithew
    July 5, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    Jack, though Macbeth is certainly on the list, I’m thinking Titus Andronicus is the blackest of the Shakespeare plays. It’s a literal bloodfeast.

    Kaimi asks … should God create Iagos, and second, does God create Iagos?

    Why can’t God create Cain, Hitler, Amalickiah and Iago? I think he creates them in a similar way that Lehi creates Laman and Lemuel, as well as Nephi. Agency is the issue rather than the nature of the Father or father. The way I see it, one of the purposes of the second estate is to filter out all the bad crafty little seeds who sided with God (in the pre-existence) for purely pragmatic reasons.

    As Shakespear wrote: Good wombs hath borne bad sons

    As far as LDS authors creating evil characters, you might want to look at Orson Scott Card’s book Lost Boys, which struck me as at least an attempt to examine a wide array of different evil personalities that seem to almost surround an LDS family — some worse than others. There was the evil boss, the evil (pedophile) co-worker, the tyrannical schoolteacher, the nutso Relief Society sister and of course the serial killer.

  14. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    Brigham Young said he could journey to the very heart of Hell, find out what goes on there, and come away as pure as he went in. His statement is moving to me because he seems to be saying that (1) it is important to thoroughly understand about Hell, (2) such understanding can be gained without becoming a demon, and (3) such understanding can help to burn the dross off you as it were. And then you have Joseph, of course, saying that if you’re going to lead a soul to salvation you’d better be prepared to look into the abyss without blinking. I’ve noticed a tendency in the Church for artists to either avoid Hell altogether or purchase a membership card.

  15. A. Greenwood
    July 5, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    Purchase a membership card? Strange. My contacts assured me that the card was absolutely free, no strings attached, no future obligations. I’ll have to ask them about that.

  16. Jack
    July 5, 2005 at 11:19 pm

    danithew,

    You may be right, but only because I haven’t read that one yet!

    Kingsley: “And then you have Joseph, of course, saying that if you’re going to lead a soul to salvation you’d better be prepared to look into the abyss without blinking.”

    In my more recent experience, that includes my own soul. I’m still in the blinking stage tho…

  17. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:20 pm

    Cracker’s dead on, though. I’ve always thought the question a silly one. As Nibley pointed out, in thousands of years the world in general has only produced a handful of such men — why should the Church pop one out in its first couple hundred years? For some reason it’s always asked about Shakespeare, too, probably because to reference Beethoven or Michelangelo would be more immediately absurd.

  18. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    Just why hasn’t the Church produced a Dante yet? I know — the Saints are such prudes!

  19. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    No, Bro. Greenwood, Hell is expensive. I know.

  20. A. Greenwood
    July 5, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Well, but maybe Hell pays well?

  21. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:31 pm

    Depends on how high up in the chain you are, like Wal-Mart.

  22. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    Shmucks like me barely get enough to cover the cost of our second earing.

  23. Kingsley
    July 5, 2005 at 11:34 pm

    Earring.

  24. Matt Bowman
    July 6, 2005 at 12:16 am

    This essay is probably relevant:

    http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-talk.html

    Briefly, Card argues that it’s important to make a distinction between glorifying or enacting evil and depicting it, which is what Kingsley is getting at.

    I would also differ with your last statement, Kaimi. I think understanding evil is important for far more weighty reasons than interesting narratives. Simply trivializing evil out of the stories we tell will neither destroy it nor teach us how to confront it – both of which are important reasons for us to examine the Dark Side ™. Story, from folktale to novels to scripture, is the place we do it. And it’s essential that we use that resource well. Like Eric said, “I think God simply provides a way for people to create themselves.”

    It’s true. It’s really true. And the more we learn about how that’s done, in all the ways that we do it, evil and good, the closer we come to understanding our potential.

    Card writes (with wistful irony) “If only we could get people to stop mentioning ugliness, the world would be beautiful.” Lovely sentiment, but, as he points out, flawed.

  25. greenfrog
    July 6, 2005 at 10:26 am

    A Greenwood wrote: Being unable to portray evil realistically is not a failure of creativity–we’re all evil so we don’t have to imagine it. It’s a failure of empathy and self-understanding.

    I disagree. I think it’s a combination of the lack of (or refusal to use) clear sight of ourselves and, when we do, a lack of candor about what we see.

    The real role of creativity here is in the means and method of portraying evil. This kind of creativity–involving thousands of subtle decisions about plot, pacing, dialogue, word choice, what is shown and what is not, etc. (and this is just in the medium of writing)–requires the sort of bourgeouis discipline that Kingsley was talking about on Rosalynde W’s creativity post.

    I agree with this.

  26. Bryan Robert
    July 6, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    I think its important to remember that anyone that has lived on the earth is not evil. Even Hitler. They have already kept their first estate, and will get some reward by virtue of that. Their actions may be negative, or what we deem as evil, but that is just not resisting their fallen and carnal state. It is always important not to judge, because we do not know what IQ,genetic structure,learned behavior,personality disorder had to do with a persons decision to do “evil”. We do not know if Hitler will accept the gospel and be in the celestial kingdom. Although in our limited knowledge this seems unlikely, it makes sence when you think that we are taught that outer darkness will not be filled with murderers, but Sons of perdition. It almost seems that in order to be deemed “evil” by God, you have to truely know that nature of this world, and God, having seens a vision, or something of that nature, and rationally choose to turn against it.

    I guess from a Mormon perspective, the ultimate evil character would be someone that sees a vision, then denys God and the Holy Ghost after that, and activily fights against the Church.. Even if that person commits no murder. Probably not as exciting reading as Shakespear though. :]

  27. A. Greenwood
    July 6, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    By ‘failure of self-understanding,’ I meant ‘a combination of the lack of (or refusal to use) clear sight of ourselves and, when we do, a lack of candor about what we see.’

  28. Jim F.
    July 6, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    Bryan Robert: Why should “evil” describe only those who are going to outer darkness? King Benjamin uses the word to describe a common disposition of our hearts (Mosiah 5:2). Alma speaks of it as something we know in this life and something we choose in this life (Alma 12:31-32). Jesus said that the Father makes the sun rise on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45). By simple implication he is saying that there are those living on this earth who are evil. Indeed, in Luke 11:13, he goes so far as to describe his followers as evil. The word “evil” has lots of meanings, not only one.

    Though your point that we should avoid judgment is an important one, we ought not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need not ignore the potential redemption of our brothers and sisters in the world in order to recognize evil, even evil in them. It is an offense to those whom the murderer has killed to say that their murder was not evil. The killer does not exist as an entity detached from his actions; his evil acts make him evil. In fact, the saving power of the Gospel is more evident if we recognize the reality of the evil that it overcomes and erases. To deny the evil in ourselves and others, is to weaken the power of the Gospel.

  29. greenfrog
    July 6, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    A. Greenwood,

    Sorry for misunderstanding. I agree entirely with your point.

  30. greenfrog
    July 6, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    Jim F.,

    In this context, what do you think of Jesus’ refusal to condemn his crucifiers by asserting their lack of knowledge? Was the statement an assertion that the apparent evil was not, in fact, evil? Was it something else?

  31. A. Greenwood
    July 6, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Amen to the words of Jim F.

  32. A. Greenwood
    July 6, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for your agreement, Greenfrog. I think your language was clearer than mine so I’m glad of the opportunity to explain that you said what I meant.

  33. Sam Payne
    July 6, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    greenfrog Re 30

    General conference has clarified that Jesus’s “forgive them” refered to the roman soldiers and not to the people who put him on the cross, who are responsible and guilty.

  34. A. Greenwood
    July 6, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    Jesus didn’t refuse to condemn his crucifiers, if I remember right. He asked his Father to forgive them. That’s pretty much different.

  35. Rosalynde Welch
    July 6, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Kaimi, though your framing is lovely, I don’t agree that human creativity is “the immature manifestation of a creative instinct which will come to full fruition when we design entire worlds and plans of salvation”—at least not anymore than any other human activity has its divine counterpart. God is only an artist in the same way that he’s a physicist, a doctor, a parent, a judge, a plumber, a garbage collector—which is to say, he isn’t, particularly. And that a whole intellectual tradition of very smart and very devout thinkers has condemned human artistry as idolatrous and profane gives me pause, at least, in attributing particular godly instinct to aesthetic endeavor.

  36. Kingsley
    July 6, 2005 at 10:50 pm

    Amen R. Welch! How many times have we heard — “Just look at a sunset and you’ll know that God is a great painter,” etc. — which is sentimental and silly and usually uttered by (a) non-painters or (b) bad ones. If a scientist creates a rainbow in his lab we don’t call him an artist.

  37. Harold B. Curtis
    July 7, 2005 at 12:11 am

    I think the church has produced some bright articulate people. The difference is they have a mission, a task of significant importance. As the Kingdom of God we deal with eternal truth, with things as they have been, as they are, and as they are to be. The Kingdom of God is not a fairy tale and not a murder mystery. It deals with picking up the pieces of broken peoples lives and putting them back together again, hopefully to be better than they otherwise are.

    So let it be written, so let it be done:)

  38. Kingsley
    July 7, 2005 at 12:18 am

    Oh, I disagree. The Kingdom of God is a fairy tale, a murder mystery, an epic, a comedy, a tragedy, etc., all rolled into one — and so we await our Shakespeare (who, after all, dealt with eternal truth pretty damn effectively).

  39. Kingsley
    July 7, 2005 at 12:23 am

    Fairy Tale — Joseph Smith and the Plates. Murder Mystery — Mountain Meadows. Epic — the trek West. Comedy — “The Seven Deadly Heresies.” Tragedy — take your pick.

  40. Bryan Robert
    July 7, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    Jim,
    Nice comments. I have to agree with some and disagree with a few. I used “evil” in 2 contexts there, probably because I had lack of a better word. It was stated that Hitler for example was “evil”. That he was created evil, or somehow started off evil. As you see I was stating that no one is inherantly evil, or created evil. Their actions may be evil, but I would argue that the person themselves is not evil. If this was the case it would mean that there was no forgiveness, or no chance to be “good”. I dont think God views us as “evil” or “good” , but simply ignorant of our actions. Even if he says the sun shines on the good and evil, I think it is just a manner of speaking. Instead of the good shines on the people that do good and positve actions or the good people that do evil actions and dont understand fully what they are doing. Which one sounds better and less confusing.

    I tried to explain that futher by saying and of course my opion that if God deemed a person to be evil, or an action truely evil, that he would not forgive said action, in fact have no chance to forgive said action. Something that could not be deemed as a mistake, or lack of understanding, or weakness, etc etc etc. Since that we know of there is only 1 action that fits that criteria denying the holy ghost/becoming a son of perdition, it would seem that that action is what would constitute as truely “Evil”. Because it could not be attributed to anything esle but evil.

    Perhaps I should say unforgivable, but why would that be the only unforgivable offence? I have to believe that the murderer is not inherantly evil. His actions may be, and he may only progress so far, but why then does he recieve glory?Even if it is the lowest form? Why dose he have a chance to recieve the gospel? If you are forgiven and your sins washed away, what has changed? Are you now good, as opposed to evil? Or has a being that is good, simply righted and turned away from actions that are deemed “evil”.

    I dont know for sure myself, but I dont think it is as cut and dry as you would make it seem.

  41. Jim F.
    July 7, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    Bryan Robert: I think that perhaps the difference between us lies in the fact that I don’t think persons have an essence that is either good or evil. To use your words, the murderer isn’t inherently evil, nor is he inherently good. He is good or evil as he acts in good or evil ways: to commit murder is to become evil. If–when–we do good, we are good; when we do evil, we are evil. However, the Gospel teaches that once we have become evil (even by doing things much less horrible than murder), we cannot escape it without the Atonement. All who have sinned are, because of that sin, evil or unclean. With you, I assume that most can be redeemed from their evil if they will accept Christ.

    So, I agree with you that God did not create evil persons, but I don’t think Kaimi said that he did. He said, “God created the good elements of Iago, but [. . .] Iago’s dark side – the aspects of his character that make him interesting in literature – come from a different source.” Obviously, I disagree with him about God creating the good elements of Iago, but that is a different question.

    You say, “I dont think it is as cut and dry as you would make it seem.” Sorry, but I don’t know what “it” you are referring to, so I’m not sure how to respond. Since I said that “evil” means different things in different contexts, I don’t think I said that evil is cut and dried.

  42. Kingsley
    July 7, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    However, cutting up and drying human bodies in your basement is manifestly evil.

  43. Richard T
    July 7, 2005 at 9:57 pm

    Jim F:

    How do your reconcile Book of Mormon statements about man’s evil nature (Alma 42:10; Ether 3:2) with your comment: “I don’t think persons have an essence that is either good or evil”?

  44. Jim F.
    July 7, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    Richard T: Alma 42:10 is quite clearly about the Fall. In #41, I said that when we do evil, we become evil, which is the same language used in that verse, “they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature.” Mosiah 3 uses the word “natural” to mean “without the Holy Ghost.” Compare verses 6 and 19: Verse 6 equates “in Adam” and “by nature,” and verse 19 tells us that we put off the natural man by receiving the Holy Ghost.

    Ether 3:2 says much the same thing: we have become evil because of sin. That isn’t about an essence, for if we have become evil, then our essence could not have originally been evil. By definition, if an essence changes, then the thing in question is no longer the same thing.

  45. A. Greenwood
    July 7, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    Not to mention encasing them in plastic for display in large art museums. And for fame and profit.

  46. Richard T
    July 8, 2005 at 12:17 am

    Jim F:

    I understand your point, that our nature “became” evil through the fall, and that the word “became” also means “change” and that if becoming evil was a change, then the previous state was therefore not evil.

    And I think that’s an accurate depiction of Adam. I’m less inclined to think of us that way. To me the language of Mosiah 3, Mosiah 16, Alma 42, and Helaman 14 (“for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual,” (Helaman 14:16)) suggest that because of the fall, we “start out” with a nature that is carnal, sensual, and devilish. It seems to me that King Benjamin even concedes that children are in this fallen state, although the atonement makes them whole, (Mosiah 3:16).

    My reading suggests to me that this nature is ours by default, and is not created by our individual choices and behavior. To say it’s not created isn’t to say it’s not affected, though. I believe it is, strongly.

    I’ve begun to conclude that the challenge in this lifetime for everyone who’s heard and understood the gospel is deciding whether or not to submit to this inherited nature. If the way I read Abinadi is correct, those who do submit to it–and the only way to not submit to it is to actively seek its destruction through Christ’s atonement–are described as those who “[persist] in [their] own carnal [natures], and [go] on in the ways of sin,” (Mosiah 16:5). Those who don’t submit turn to Christ for the mighty change of heart, the baptism of fire, the remission of sins that converts this nature from one that is predisposed to sin–regardless of how we’ve behaved–to one that is predisposed to do good continually.

    Most folks see this (the submitting to one’s nature or turning to Christ to conquer it) playing out in behavioral terms: turning to Christ is something akin to rigorous and Christ-empowered self-mastery; submitting to one’s evil nature is an abandon of behavioral discipline. But I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve started to consider the matter of behavioral sin (think, say, do) as rather distinct from what I described in the paragraph above, which I would call more a matter of disposition (not sure if that’s what you’re referring to with the term “essence”).

    I read about Alma the Younger, Enos, the people of King Benjamin and the prophet killers in Helaman 5 and I see them going through something very similar that has more to do with their nature than their behavior.

    This is the direction my reading has led me in, and I would welcome a course correction from you, if you think it’s out of line. Please help me see if and where you differ from these views.

  47. Jim F.
    July 8, 2005 at 11:37 am

    Richard T: I don’t think the gap between our positions is a chasm. It is in whether we think that human beings have a nature. I don’t; you do. However, I don’t think that difference entails any course correction on either your part or mine. Though we disagree about the theological explanation of the doctrine, we seem to agree about the doctrinal status of human beings in this life: we are fallen and in need of a redemption that can only come to us through Jesus Christ. (For example, I absolutely agree with you that it is a mistake to understand our turn to Christ as some kind of self-mastery.) The teachings of the scriptures and the prophets about salvation is crucial. The theological explanations of those teachings are not.

    I understand the terms “essence” and “nature” as they have traditionally been used: the unchanging character of a thing that makes it what it is rather than something else. Thus, using that meaning, I don’t see how Adam could be a human being and have a different nature than the rest of us.

  48. Richard T
    July 8, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Jim F:

    “the gap between our positions . . . is in whether we think that human beings have a nature. I don’t; you do.”

    I wouldn’t say I do. Instead I would that in the development of my understanding I’ve failed to draw the distinction between “theological explanations” and “doctrine” that you seem to be making, one which apparently allows you to describe the term “nature” as used in scripture as something other than what it “traditionally” means in philosophical usage: the unchanging character of a thing that makes it what it is rather than something else.

    I’ve always assumed that the doctrinal status of human beings in this life was the actual status of human beings in this life, even if our most advanced understanding of metaphysics and current events didn’t square with the doctrine. But you appear to be suggesting that doctrine–at least in this discussion of nature–is a logical abstraction, an illustrative device which isn’t necessarily representative of things as they really are.

    Am I reading you right? If so or if not, could you please elaborate, or direct me to some stuff I can read on the subject. Remember, I’m your Nietzche drop-out, so please keep any recommendations at a “For Dummies” level.

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