earthly life is the best of all possible worlds is a case of having, to say the least, no imagination, no insight into eternity. Furthermore, we cannot lay the blame for the world's ills entirely elsewhere. To the extent to which we perceive the world, as well as our own sinful selves, our misguided choices, our skewed priorities, we will see the relationship between the two: there is evil in the world, and we human beings are systemically complicit in it.
The opening chapters of Genesis reveal an ordered process of creation culminating in the creation of the human person in the image of God. Orthodoxy does not focus in any way on a purported ideal or immortal state of humanity 'before' the Fall. In fact, St Maximus the Confessor implies that there is no such state at all, that the first-created humans 'fell together with their coming into being'.1 Others, such as Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus and Ephrem, say that we were a work in progress, like children who acted too early on something that was meant for us at a later stage. When the Fathers describe salvation as 'restoration' they do not mean a return to some historic, perfect and deified original state but the restoration of the essential will of God for a humanity united to him in perfect freedom and love. Moreover, the transgression and the expulsion from Paradise narrated in Genesis 3 never engendered in the Christian East a doctrine of 'original guilt' or 'guilt in Adam'.2 Orthodoxy's strong emphasis on human freedom entails that people are personally guilty only for their own sins. Likewise the early Genesis narratives did not produce in the Orthodox East a doctrine of total depravity, which would run counter to the conviction that human nature is at root good, even though distorted. The Paradise account, together with the other 'decline narratives' of Genesis 1-11, testify to the state of exile in which we currently find ourselves: at odds with God, with each other and with the created environment, and therefore in need of saving.
The patristic heritage is consistent about the role of the human person both in the Fall and in the salvation of the world. Elaborating on ideas found in Classical philosophy, the Fathers teach that the human person is a microcosm, a summation of the composition of the created world. The human being is unique among all of creation in being both spiritual and physical, thus partaking of the nature of the angelic, bodiless powers as well as of the material creation. If a microcosm, then the human person is also a mediator between the material and the spiritual, between earth and heaven. The 'priestly' vocation that is common to all humanity is to offer up all of creation to God. Inasmuch as we sin in any way, we fail in this vocation, and the whole of creation suffers as a result (cf. Hos 4:1-3). Insofar as we fulfil our vocation (by the Spirit of God, in the crucified Christ), we fulfil our calling to 'till and keep the earth' (Gen 2:15), to make the 'chaos' of the disordered world into a God-ordered 'cosmos'. The whole of creation groans in travail (Rom 8:22) awaiting the fully realised salvation wrought by God, in Christ, and through us. Being microcosm and mediator of the created universe is no small calling.
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