Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Fall

Christians don’t take the doctrine of sin seriously enough. We say that we believe in Creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We say that we believe in the Fall, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” We say that we believe in sin and redemption: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 

But somehow we don’t take sin seriously enough. We don’t really believe in the Fall. Except as words on paper or answers to a catechism question. 

Here’s what sparked these thoughts. Every so often one or another of my friends goes off on a rant for or against Climate Change (anthropogenic global warming, if you like). Or on a rant about scientists (untrustworthy). Or on a rant about Christians in Texas pressing to include the Bible’s influence on the US constitution in history texts. 

In the rants a fault line becomes evident: Christians believe (or are thought to believe) that God is in control of this world, so we don’t have to worry about what will happen to it. Non-Christians believe (or are thought to believe) that science is God, and that they will pervert any scientific research in order to get more grant money. Now this is a silly fault line I know. Caricature on caricature, so that neither side can see themselves in the other’s descriptions. 

But the rants sparked a puzzle for me, thinking and living (or trying to) as a Christian. If sin is real, then everything we do is influenced by our pattern of self-will. (By sin, I mean simply that we want to order our lives for our own benefit, with ourselves at the centre, and without reference to God—or anyone else if possible. Sin is finally simply selfishness and pride.) 

Now if sin influences everything we do, why would we expect Republican lawmakers to be any less selfish than Democrat lawmakers? (That’s another part of the caricature: That somehow Republican and conservative equals “Christian” and that Democratic and liberal equals “non-Christian”. Of course that is nonsense. Christians are followers of Christ, not of any party or party line.) 

If selfishness and pride influences everything we do, why would we assume that the business-owners pressing for business-friendly legislation have anyone else’s interests at heart? Why would we assume that my desire for cheaper gas prices at the pump is anything other than simple selfishness? If sin is real? 

The same concern applies to scientists: Certainly we can expect that they will routinely skew results to make themselves look good and benefit themselves. Or would, if they could get away with it. But the scientific community is such that others are ready to pounce on discrepancies and falsehoods. More than any other purely human community, I suspect that scientists compel honesty of each other as a matter of survival. Willful blindness (sin) continues in the whole, but with more checks on it than in many other areas of life. 

That’s the core of my rant. Here’s the application. If God is real, I can have confidence in the future of the planet, which God cares for constantly. But Christian belief is clear in this area: God made us the planet’s gardeners or caretakers. The Fall of humanity from the original Garden includes the Fall of the whole planet: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

Is the planet warming because of human activity? If sin is real, it just might be. God tells us that our self-centredness has placed the whole of creation in bondage—the very creation God gave us to be caretakers. God made us gardeners, and we have made trash heaps for ourselves instead. 

Okay, I’m preaching, and my tone is overdone. I’m just trying to take the doctrine of sin seriously and ask what it means for the whole of life. I can listen and learn from anyone who pushes back against my rant.

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