What’s Wrong With The World?
The Fall of the Human Race
We have been talking about the Christian worldview in recent issues. A worldview is a window on the world, a perspective from which we see the world we live in. Everyone has one, thought people are not usually conscious of that. Walsh and Middleton say that a worldview answers four questions: who am I, where am I, what’s wrong, and what is the remedy? The Christian worldview is often defined as: creation, fall and redemption. In talking about the World of God as the means of creation, we have been discussing the answer to the first two questions. Today we want to turn to the third question, what’s wrong?
Before we do that, however, there is one further thing that should be discussed in answer to the first and second questions. When God spoke the universe into being, he did so in an orderly fashion: galaxies, earth, land and water separated, plants, fish, birds, animals and finally, humans. Humans have the special quality, distinct from all other living things, of being able to have touch with God. They are made in His image, male and female. They were made morally sinless and at the beginning they had intimate fellowship with God. However, they were not automatons. They were made with the freedom to declare their independence from God. This is what happened in what the theologians call “the fall”. To that we can now turn.
Turning away from God was not something which Adam and Eve thought of on their own. A fallen angel, Satan or the Devil suggested it to them. He used a snake to propose the temptation. Apparently Adam and Eve had much closer touch with the animal kingdom than we do today. To understand the temptation we need to remember what God had said to the primal pair about the fruit of the trees in the Garden of Eden. He told them they could eat from any tree in the Garden except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He warned them that on the day they ate from that tree they would die.
The devil’s approach is recorded in Genesis 3. The serpent asked Eve if God had told them not to eat from any tree in the Garden. Eve said no, it was just this one tree of knowledge that they were not to eat from, or, she added, they were not even to touch its fruit. Schmemann notes that this was the one tree God had not blessed to them. The Devil said, “You won’t die; God knows that your eyes will be opened and you will become like gods, knowing good and evil.” He promised a new kind of freedom, knowing all the while that, if Eve and Adam followed his advice, they would fall, not into freedom, but into his control.
The idea appealed to Eve, as recorded in Genesis 3:6, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and this it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from the fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate.”
What was wrong with this action? It was much more than the mere breaking of a rule. “God for food” speaks of pleasure. “A delight to the eyes,” speaks of possession, somewhat like window-shopping. “Desirable to make one wise” speaks of power. Now there is nothing necessarily wrong with pleasure, possession, or power. When properly received they come to us from God through the creation. But God had not blessed this tree to them. They were trying to get these things from the tree and not from God through the tree. That meant that they were putting the tree in the place of God, which was a gross form of idolatry. The three temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4 correspond closely to these three, and 1 John 2:16 speaks of the same three as “all that is in the world”. There seems to be a three-sidedness to the evil to which the race was tempted. A moment’s thought shows that the human race is still seeking these three things, but not from God.
So the action was really a declaration of independence form God. They opted out of His kingdom for what they thought would be their own kingship, but it turned out to be the kingdom of the Evil One. This is why Jesus, as well as John the Baptist, proclaimed the gospel as the gospel of the kingdom. That quality of the gospel is seldom emphasized today, which may be why the church is so ineffective in the culture. We will go into it more fully in the next essay. Meanwhile, if you want a good book on the topic, get Follow Me, by Jan Hettinga, published by Navpress.
Adam and Eve had the freedom to step off the high place where God had placed them, the place of intimate fellowship with Him. But having done so, they were not free, in their own power, to undo the damage they had done. God had to do that, at amazing cost to Himself. But that is a topic we will look at in the future.