As It Is Written . . .
Tempted from Above
by Patrick Henry Reardon
Prominent among the challenges facing early Christian theology was the temptation to trace man's Fall to the corporeal, physical components of his nature—the passions, dispositions, and frailties of the body. Man's biology was widely thought to be the source of his moral problem.
We are correct to trace this widespread "physical" explanation of the Fall to sundry dualistic cosmologies infecting the intellectual culture of the early Christian centuries. For instance, many exponents of Plato, including Origen's contemporary, Plotinus, traced the root of evil to the physical order; pure spirits, such thinkers believed, had become contaminated by physical "stuff" (hyle) or "matter" (materia). Even two generations before Plotinus, Irenaeus of Lyons had to refute kin theories held by the Gnostics, and three centuries later, Augustine of Hippo was obliged to contend with a similar dualism made popular by the Manicheans.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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