instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, March 08, 2004

Divine amnesia

T.S. O'Rama mentions that his adorable wife "has an amnesiac memory that is God-like, since He utterly forgives and forgets our sins and failings."

Ezekiel 18:22 is one place in Scripture where this Divine amnesia is mentioned:
But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
The natural response to this is, of course, "Woo hoo!"

But I think there's a deeper significance here. This verse doesn't say our crimes won't be held against us, it says our crimes won't be remembered. Our sins won't be simply forgiven, they'll be forgotten.

And it's God Who is doing the forgetting. What does it mean for God to forget something? Doesn't it mean that the thing passes out of His mind? Can something that doesn't exist in God's mind, even in His memory, be said to exist anywhere?

I don't think so. I read such passages as Ezekiel 18:22 as meaning that, in a real sense, our sins not only cease to count against us, but cease to be, in fact cease to have been. Now, I can't really say what that "real sense" in which this is true is. It's not literally true, since the past can't be changes, and in any case God can't forget anything. But I do think it's true in some sense such that, properly speaking, there aren't any former sinners in heaven. In being raised up to share in the Divine Life, we are perfected, and that perfection includes the perfection of our histories in a way that leaves no shadow in the presence of God.