This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Male and female “from the beginning”

“Haven’t you read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female?”[1] From Christ’s words to the Pharisees, St. John Paul II infers in his Theology of the Body that we have little reason to consider man simply as man, but that we should instead always consider man as “male and female.”[2] Here he is drawing a distinction between historical man and man in the state of innocence, which, for St. John Paul II, was a primordial and therefore pre-historical state.

The saint observes that the first chapter of Genesis is objective, while the second is subjective. In the objective account (Genesis 1) the scriptures, taking the perspective of God, do not speak of “man” as anything other than “male and female.” Thus, from God’s point of view, neither of the sexes precedes or follows the other, but both are created together “from the beginning.”[3]

The second account, on the other hand (Genesis 2), is subjective, which is to say, it is the story of creation from man’s point of view. It dwells on what St. John Paul II termed the “original experiences” of man which go to constitute and explain the human condition. Genesis 2 conveys these primordial happenings in a way that is comprehensible to us. This is why the second account has the character of myth and is essentially supra-historical (although not necessarily non-historical).[4]

Fallen man is “historical man.” His experience of life is valid only as far back as historical man has existed—but this does not and cannot reach into the pre-historical period of innocence. Such is the justification for and the purpose of the creation myth, with the result that, although it relates its details through a chronological scheme in which the male precedes the female, it must be interpreted first and foremost as conveying an ontological ordering of creation rather than an actual ordering of events in time.

The conclusion of all this is that we are not equipped to speak either historically or experientially of man without taking into account his relation to woman. This fundamental bifurcation is indispensable and unavoidable: there is no such thing as a genderless “person.” We must always follow Christ and speak of man as male and female “from the beginning.” Female-ness (and male-ness, for that matter) was not an afterthought based on God’s failed attempt to create a single, happy, gender-neutral human being.

In fact, the proper interpretation of Genesis is born out linguistically in the account itself. When the narrative speaks of the “original experiences”—such as the “original loneliness”—of Adam before the creation of woman, it employs a word which means mankind in general, without reference to gender. Thus, everything that is said of Adam before the creation of Eve must, to a certain extent, describe the experiences of mankind as a whole—including those of women. That is to say, women also have an experiential connection with the “original loneliness” felt by Adam (“mankind in general”) before the creation of Eve.

Thus, if we are not justified in considering mankind as one gender or the other, or as some abstract, genderless “person,” but instead must always consider mankind as the ambiguously complementary gendered dualism, and if we acknowledge that this dualism inevitably produces a third being from within itself (the child), then we come immediately to the family as a fundamental human reality, which is a single unit in love—an earthly reflection of the Triune God.

[1] Mt 19:4.

[2] Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Boston, 2006), pp. 132-133.

[3] Ibid., pp. 134-136.

[4] Ibid., pp. 137-141.

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