“The God who is enthroned over the world and history as a changeless being is an offence to man. One must deny him for man’s sake, because he claims for himself the dignity and honour that belong by right to man”
– Walter Kasper
In Book 8 of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle points out that friendship is more difficult to establish the greater the difference in excellence between the persons and that consequently friendship between God and man is impossible.
“[I]f there is a great interval in respect of virtue or vice or wealth or anything else between the parties; then they are no longer friends, and do not even expect to be so. And this is most manifest in the case of the gods; for they surpass us most decisively in all good things. But it is clear also in the case of kings; for with them, too, men who are much their inferiors do not expect to be friends; nor do men of no account expect to be friends with the best or wisest men. In such cases it is not possible to define exactly up to what point friends can remain friends; for much can be taken away and friendship remain, but when one party is removed to a great distance, as God is, the possibility of friendship ceases.”
In addition to this problem there is another problem with the concept of friendship between God and man. Friendship itself, it would seem, from the perspective of natural reason is a symptom of finitude and imperfection. As St Thomas puts it in an objection in De Potentia “to depend on another for the fullness of one’s joy and love is an indication of insufficient goodness in oneself. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4) that the wicked through finding no pleasure in their own company seek the companionship of others: whereas the good seek to commune with themselves through finding pleasure in so doing.”
Thus it would seem on two counts, if not inherently impossible, infinitely unfitting for God to offer friendship to created persons. And yet, He does. How can this be?
There are two possible explanations either the self-communicative nature of the good characterises even the Uncreated Good and God is compelled by His very nature to diffuse Himself infinitely, but unable to generate a coequal second divine person, God generates all the creatures He could possibly generate bringing them to the highest degree of perfection of which they are capable, or, God is more than one person and friendship is a pure perfection.
If the first possibility were true then intellectual creatures (indeed all finite beings) would not really be creatures at all but emanations of the Godhead and their participation in the divine nature and vision of God would not be God’s gratuitous gift but their right. This is the claim made by the Devil in his rebellion against God. It is also apparently the basic credo of Cardinal Kasper.
If the second possibility were true then, as the other half of the objection in the De Potentia makes clear, God is Triune,
…the fullness of joy requires the companionship of several in the divine nature, because there is no pleasure in possessing a thing unless we share it with a companion, according to Boethius. Moreover perfect love is to love another as oneself.
How were our first parents to know which was true? God made this known to them through the precept “of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat”. For by imposing upon man as a condition of friendship with God a precept of Divine Law in addition to the law proportionate to man’s nature, God made clear that the offer of friendship is gratuitous on His part.
St Gregory of Nyssa (Cant. 7,350,2-4) teaches that the tree of life and the tree of knowledge are the same tree. Because they are both said to be in the centre of the garden, which is impossible unless they are the same tree. The tree of knowledge was not poisonous and evil nor did it afford knowledge of good and evil only to those who ate of it. It would have afforded knowledge of good and evil to our first parents regardless of whether they ate of it or not because, by occasioning temptation, it taught them obedience. By eating of the tree and ignoring the precept they denied the gratuity of God’s offer of friendship and asserted their equality with God.
Once they had put themselves at enmity with Him, God expelled Adam and Eve from paradise to prevent them eating of the tree of life and living forever in separation from God, that is from going to Hell. In His mercy God denied them access to the Tree of Life, which for them would mean everlasting death.
And he said: Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now, therefore, lest perhaps he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken.
What would have happened if Adam and Eve had resisted temptation and not eaten the fruit? They would have acted meritoriously and the infused charity with which they were created being perfected by wisdom they would have known connaturally that friendship is a pure perfection, their intellects unclouded by sin would have perceived the Triune nature of God and eaten of the tree of life. For Wisdom “is a tree of life to them that lay hold on her: and he that shall retain her is blessed.”
What then was the precept of Divine Law to which the fallen angels refused to be subject in their earlier rebellion? Submission to a man called the Christ. This combined with the realisation that men were in part created to replace them instilled into the fallen angels a raging hatred of the human race. The mystery of the Incarnation was revealed in a veiled form to Adam and Eve through the primaeval sacrament of marriage but without the knowledge of the Trinity neither they nor the fallen angels understood the Great Mystery that the Christ would be not only man but God as well.
The precept forbidding the fruit was the means by which we acknowledged the gratuity of grace, obedience to it was the original eucharist: the thanksgiving. To submit to the conditions that God lays down for the reception of His gift of Himself is to recognise that it is His gift and not our right. It is to say ‘thank you’. It is not to count equality with God a thing to be grasped. The recognition of the necessity of explicit faith, of conscious submission to revealed Divine Law is the recognition of the gratuity of salvation and so ultimately of the Trinity itself because the gift of friendship with God is unthinkable unless friendship itself is a reflection of the inner life of God.
The eucharistic typology is powerful. For what is the Tree of Life and Knowledge but the Cross? What is its fruit but the Eucharist? What is the purpose of the Cherub with the flaming sword but to prevent our first parents eating condemnation upon themselves? Why is marriage between one man and one woman but because the Church is one and grace unmeritable? Why is marriage indissoluble but because the Church is indefectible? What then is sodomy but the anti-sacrament of Satan’s rebellion against God? What is the communication of adulterers but the recapitualation of original sin? The Kasperian heresy is a satanic abomination.
Upon the Cross the changeless God who is enthroned over the world and history stooped down to share with us the dignity and honour that are His by right because He Who Is love chose to do so. Who is like God?