Our defection has not changed our task, though it leads us to neglect it.
As mentioned earlier, in creating the world God subjected us to natural standards, a cultural task and a proper ultimate goal.
None of the above has been abrogated (repealed, rescinded, cancelled) as a result of our defection; they continue to apply. The rules did not change, we just started breaking them.
"For your hardness of heart Moses wrote you this commandment, but from the beginning it was not so."
Matthew 19:8, in which Christ upholds the standards that apply regardless of our defection, and encourages us, however firmly we may, like him, regard the Law of Moses as inspired by God, to recognise that some (I think much) of it is a mitigation of vice, not a standard of virtue.
So our basic duties are unchanged. But the circumstances in which they are to be performed have changed, and we should adjust our attitude correspondingly.
The basic form of the proper attitude, the expression of the godly alignment, is to pursue our cultural task leading to union with God in his anthroposis. This has not been affected by our defection.
But in an unspoiled world the proper attitude also includes two assumptions which in a spoiled world no longer hold good, so that the basic form of the proper attitude is inadequate. One of these concerns our own wicked predisposition, the other concerns the wickedness of others.
God never intended man's progress to be effortless. Even without Defection mistakes would be made and it would sometimes be proper to backtrack to find a new path, to tear down in order to build, to wound in order to heal. I call this the surgical principle. But in post-Defection conditions it applies far more widely.
One's Own Wickedness
The first obsolete assumption is that I am godly.
At the deepest level every self, as they develop, senses their wicked predisposition and consequently adjusts their attitude. But there are two ways to do this.
The wrong way is to formulate defection by creating idols, as explained on a previous page.
The right way is to repent, responding to the ever-present intuition of God's voice calling us to hope for restoration.
Self-reform. The duty of self-improvement was mentioned in the "Creation" section of this Creed, but it now includes, as part of repentance, the duty of self-reform, that is, to purge oneself of the deviant habits that spring from wicked choices.
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
The gospel according to Matthew 7:3.
Much has been said on this point by others, and I see little benefit in my adding to it; I think my contribution lies elsewhere.
For us who feel impelled to address the specks of others, the danger of neglecting our own logs is perennial and grave. But it is not an excuse to disregard the specks. I now turn to those specks, with a final word to God. (I call this The Critic's Prayer.) "Have mercy on me, a wrongdoer, and help me, in responding to others' faults, not to forget my own."
The Wickedness of Others
The other obsolete assumption is that others are godly.
The proper modes of response to others' wickedness include:
Separation. Pursuing our cultural task involves reaching accords with others. The more all parties share the sense of our basic duties, the easier, deeper and broader such accords will tend to be. So we should generally prefer accord with others who seem to share that sense.
Persuasion. When others violate natural standards, or neglect the cultural task, it is proper to persuade them to repent.
Counteraction. When family or property is disturbed or threatened by actual or anticipated encroachment, it is proper to use force against them. See Counteraction.
But proper responses to wickedness never include further violations, and applying this principle to the question of property yields the conclusion that every form of the state is improper; I treat that as a Creed Item in its own right, and it follows this one.
Adaptation. Some effects of wickedness are impractical to avoid by separation, ameliorate by persuasion, or reverse by counteraction. Then we must simply make the best of a bad job. See Adaptation.
Certain encroachments can only occur if a woman is involved. See Gynaic Encroachments.
"God's restorative response to man's original defection was so immediate that speculation about what principles would have applied without that response is futile."
I admit that this is highly abstract, but I think it worthwhile. Some adjustments are proper as a result of the defection as such, and others as a result of God's restorative steps. I address the former here, and the latter in the next Section of this Creed.
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