Does Original Sin “Cause” Hurricane Sandy?

Does Original Sin “Cause” Hurricane Sandy? October 29, 2012

Did original sin cause Hurricane Sandy?  There are, I think, two ways to answer that question.  I’ll leave out of consideration the possibility that the world before the Fall was serene and not “red in tooth and claw” on the natural and cosmological level.  So that leaves two possibilities to consider.

First, yes, original sin “causes” Hurricane Sandy, but only if the doctrine of original sin is expanded far beyond its current anthropocentric contours and given cosmological dimensions.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, for all his faults, was the first modern theologian to consider this in a serious way.  He links “original sin” to the reality of contingent being.  In his thought, all contingent being must be created as being-in-becoming:

It [original sin] simply symbolizes the inevitable chance of evil (necesse es ut eveniant scandala) which accompanies the existence of all participated being.  Wherever being in fieri is produced, suffering and wrong immediately appear as its shadow.

So original sin is everywhere from the very beginning:

If there is original sin in the world, it can only be and have been everywhere in it and always, from the earliest of the nebulae to be formed as far as the most distant.

God could not/did not create a perfect world.  God created a world that could only become perfect by changing.  This change implies a movement from imperfect to more perfect.  In the process of change, things, since the first moment of the Big Bang “die:” stars die, plants die, animals die.  All of that imperfection, analogically speaking, can be called “original sin.”  Analogically speaking, since “sin” is only properly so-called when freedom enters the scene.

So in this larger cosmological sense, original sin “causes” Sandy.   Original sin as the “law of imperfection” is at work in the world as the shadow side of contingent being, and so hurricanes will happen.  Of course, with human beings and freedom, sin and evil become explicit.  They are now chosen, and so take on a new dimension.  They become “sin” and “evil” proper in the world.  They become “chosen imperfection.”  But original sin was present before in an analogical sense – as the law of imperfection necessary to a contingently created universe.

According to this picture, nothing changes in the world ontologically after the Fall.  The groaning of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:22 refers not so much to the contingent status of creation – though to that as well – as it does to the ways that the freely chosen imperfection of human beings has added to the suffering of the world.  Many natural disasters are caused by human foolishness or greed.  But human sin does not cause all natural disasters per se.  It only exacerbates them.

Second, original sin “causes” Hurricane Sandy in the sense that, because of original sin, human beings now perceive and experience hurricanes and other natural disasters as “evil” in some sense rather than simply being.  This is a more indirect sense in which original sin “causes” a hurricane.  By this I mean that it “causes” a hurricane as an evil when before it would have not been perceived as such.  According to this perspective, hurricanes and natural disasters always existed, but the first self-conscious beings may not have experienced them as evil.  They may have experienced them as most animals still do: simply as being.  This has a certain historical appeal to it, since the first rational humans may have only experienced a tiny glimmer of separation from their hominid relatives.  However with sin comes suspicion, and just as Adam and Eve realized that they were naked, maybe they also realized that the world was naked.  They experienced its imperfections now as evil.  Hence, in this sense, original sin “causes” the evil of Sandy.

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