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Icarus Fallen: Felix Culpa - The Fortunate Fall Part 2

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Was mankind’s fall into sin a path to a better future? Did God allow the possibility of sin through free will first by Lucifer (aka Satan) and then by humans as the way to an ultimate good?

Icarus did fall to earth but was it for an ultimate good?

As a theological concept, Felix Culpa is a way of understanding the Fall as having positive outcomes. The concept is paradoxical in nature as it looks at the fortunate consequences of an unfortunate event, which would never have been possible without the unfortunate event in the first place.

The basic idea is that the true event of the Fall in history is evidence of God’s goodness since it brings about Redemption through the Incarnation and the Atonement of Jesus. Philosophers have speculated that this observation means it is possible that a world that never experiences the Fall and Redemption will not have the best outcome.

In the philosophy of religion, Felix Culpa is considered as a category of theodicy (an explanation of evil) in response to the problem of evil.

In popular culture for example the book (and movie) Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler also attempts to connect the dots of suffering and evil with ultimate good outcomes. The books have strong themes of moral relativism, as the Baudelaire children become more confused during the course of the series about the difference between right and wrong, understanding they have done wicked things themselves and struggling with the question of does the end justify the means

In classic literature John Milton illustrates the concept in Paradise Lost. In book 12, Adam proclaims that the good from the Fall is "more wonderful" than the goodness in creation:

O goodness infinite, Goodness immense!

That all this good of evil shall produce,

And evil turn to good; more wonderful

Than that which creation first brought forth

Light out of Darkness!

Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect communion with God the Son walking in the garden. What the relationship with mankind and the cosmos would have been like if the fall had not occurred can only be known by God.

Romans 8:20-21 which states,

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Looking at such resources as the Westminster Confession of faith; “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”. Does this obligate us to say that God – in some manner at least – ordained the fall of mankind?

It is here that we in our limited finite thinking fail to grasp God’s pervasive, comprehensive absolute and meticulous sovereignty over all things. We try to analyze and break down in human terms what God was and is doing. We reveal our bias towards empirical and naturalist views of creation. Even the best of Christian minds is sucked into the “buffered self “frame of reference as explained by Philosopher Charles Taylor. It slips into our worldview covertly and limits our understanding of scripture. Remembering that God is a personal being and that he has revealed himself through Christ who is a living human at this very moment, God not only is the master weaver he is truly all knowing and at action through untold number of causal historical and personal threads. We lack the cognitive ability to comprehend or extrapolate even the smallest element of the larger story.

Felix Culpa states that the fall, sin, suffering, and evil are awfully bad outcomes. But… the incarnation and the atonement are very, very great goods. They are so good, that any world that did not have the incarnation and atonement would be inferior to a world that had them.

The thinking goes that the fall was perhaps a necessary precondition for the incarnation and the atonement. So, the Christian might conclude that even though the fall is bad, it is still a fortunate occurrence, because it makes it possible for us to be in a world where the incarnation and atonement took place.

Humans are always asking why and how; it is in our nature. Many things in God’s word and world are ambiguous for many reasons most of which we do not know. It is clear by our sin and behavior that we as fallen creatures do not have the cognitive ability to understand or comprehend. Even if we had such knowledge there are no guarantees we would not still be like Lucifer and our parent Adam and rebel.

But to know God in our current condition, intoxicated by life and blinded by sin we must continue to seek God, to understand and yes to love and worship him above all else.


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