what about the fall?

Working from some thoughts in a recent sermon, this is the third post in a series asking the question, "So what if creation is good?" (You can listen here, but sorry for the buzz)

Post #1 - So what if creation is good?
Post #2 - What does "good" mean?

If "good" in Genesis 1-2 is characterized by shalom, the inevitable issue we must confront is "the Fall" - the entrance of sin and death into the world (Gen. 3). What do we do with Genesis 3 and following (until nearly the end of Revelation in fact)? And what do we do with our own experience of the world personally or globally, where so often shalom isn't the reality?

As Bible scholar Tremper Longman III describes, "Genesis is our story - the story of beginnings. It is first and foremost a story of God's interaction with his people created in his image. Genesis 3-11, and in fact the entire Old Testament, is in essence a story of failure after failure. God is faithful - humans are not. Sin has consequences. Adam and Eve are placed in a garden in a covenant with God - and they fail. In Genesis 4 Cain fails and he is cursed from the ground. In Genesis 6 everyone has failed - except Noah. In Genesis 11 mankind fails. The cycle continues throughout the Old Testament" (How to Read Genesis). And I'd suggest, the cycle persists today.

Beyond Genesis 1-2, you could say most of the rest of the Bible describes the absence of “good” – the absence of shalom. The Fall, in effect, marks the distortion of what was good. This shift to disharmony is evident in creation itself, which Paul describes as "groaning" in "its bondage to decay" (Rom. 8:20-22). God no longer walks with Adam and Eve in the garden, distanced from those he created to bear his image. Humans experience toiling, shame, and conflict, banished from Eden. The MB Confession of Faith describes the effects of the Fall well: "Sin and evil have gained a hold in the world, disrupting God's purposes for the created order and alienating humans from God and thus from creation, each other and themselves." I don't think anyone can deny how much of history and our lives reflect such a distortion or disruption from the goodness described in Genesis 1-2. Hence we are all culpable for contributing to this distortion of shalom, the inescapable reality that we participate in the vicious cycle of brokenness.

But how we undertand this disruption is crucial for how we view God, ourselves, and the world. I want to suggest that a disruption of creation is different than a redefinition of creation. The Genesis account was written largely to provide an alternative to other mythologies the Israelites encountered. These creation myths promoted the idea that the physical realm represented spiritual realities - good and evil. In Genesis, while good and evil is present, they are not some sort of metaphysical categories built into the actual fabric of the world. Good, if we remember, refers to God's approval - it's descriptive of God's view of the world. So if we think of the Fall disrupting God's purposes - shalom - the actual fabric of the world while tainted with sin and brokenness can still carry with it glimpses of goodness. Creation, including humanity, is not redefined as intrinsically evil. As Longman III clarifies, "The creation account informs and assures us that the world, as created by God, was good. Evil must have come from another source." The Fall,then, describes broken relationships between God, humanity, and the world. Any concept of original sin should describe the ongoing relational brokenness that humans have experienced and participate in, but not an intangible addition of "sinful" to our DNA.

I realize, however, that imagining how we might restore "good" in our lives is difficult. Part of our problem is we get stuck in the middle of the story – the Fall becomes determinative for how we experience the world. But like any good story, we can’t stop reading before we reach the climax, lest we assume the wrong ending. Which brings us to our last question:

Is creation still "good"?


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