The Fall and Its Effects (Pt.1)

1.  Introduction

I recall once seeing the late Francis Schaeffer interviewed during the filming of ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race’ and he was asked how he felt about God allowing him to develop brain cancer.  His response was typical, “I take the Fall seriously” he remarked.  Schaeffer showed that he was truly convinced of the Christian worldview by acknowledging the hard truth that mankind is under the curse, which ravages the world due to the disobedience of the first man.

Man had a wonderful beginning, and redeemed mankind will have a more glorious end, but between those two events sits the stark truth about the Fall of our first parents, an unrelenting curse, and willful rebellion bringing about moral and spiritual defeat.

2.  The Fall: A Specific Event

In speaking about man as fallen we must always remind ourselves that we are attempting to describe man as the Bible describes him.  As G. C. Berkouwer noted,

“the whole Bible continually sheds light on man in all his numberless relations, and that it does not concern itself simply with a way of approaching the nature of man, but with the actual man, who stands outlined in the searching light of the revelation of God.” – Man: The Image of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962, 30.

Man is a fallen creature in a fallen world, a world that he pulled into confusion.  A world that is still, to use Calvin’s expression, “the theatre of God’s glory” (which it was always meant to be), but which is also the stage for tragedy and tears.

A Biblical Event

The story of our creation and fall is, of course, a biblical story.  It is an explanation of both why we’re here and of what went wrong.  The theology of the Fall is difficult to grasp unless the theology of Creation is first understood.  When one reads the opening chapter of Genesis (without fretting about whether or not secular science might approve) it becomes clear that God is building a hierarchy into the sequence.  So when the second part of Day 6 arrives we have reached a pinnacle.  With the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God the work is complete and the Lord calls it very good.  Chapter Two zooms in on Adam, noticing that God makes a special habitation for him, and that he is given the kingly privilege of naming the animals.  All was paradise, until Chapter Three verse six where Adam flouts the rule of God and plunges mankind into sin.

Conservative Bible teachers have taught that the image of God was badly impaired by the Fall.  There are clear passages which prove that the image has not been erased (Gen. 9:6; Jam. 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:7; cf. Deut. 32:6; Isa. 64:8; Acts 17:25).  This marring of the Divine image is not often pondered, but if we take one of the features of the image to be that man was the representative of God in the world, then the infamy of its distortion becomes apparent.  How does man in revolt, man accursed and dying represent his Maker?

The Truth about fallen man is this: he is a hater of God (Rom. 1:30), counting God as his enemy (Rom. 5:10), failing to give Him glory or thanks (Rom.1:21).  The sin within fallen man is pervasive, coloring everything he does.  Therefore, he does not like to retain God in his thoughts (Rom. 1:28), preferring to exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:26).  Man is at enmity with his Maker (Rom. 8:7).  Although made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), and originally made upright, man has actively sought out many wicked calculations (Eccles. 7:29).  He tells himself lies – sometimes very elaborate ones – which he uses to deny the rights of God, and even the very existence of God (Rom. 1:22-23, 25).  Yet, according to the Bible, man has this nagging awareness that he will be judged (Rom. 1:32), which makes his rebellious response all the more an insult.  He is evil (Matt. 7:11), having his understanding darkened and his heart blinded (Eph. 4:18).  In short, he is reigned over by sin (Rom. 5:21a).  On top of all this, mankind is so morally perverse as to believe that, if he needs redemption, he can have a hand in it himself!

Of course, the Bible tells us that this declension came about as a result of our disinclination to submit to God’s authority.  Sin is stubborn disobedience, and disobedience comes naturally to human nature after the Fall.  Left to ourselves, we will strive to hold God off and shut Him out of our lives.  Ever since the expulsion from Eden it has been so.  We want above all things to be independent of God.    Small gods don’t get in our way.  In fact, they can; as Freud said, help man handle his fear of the capricious forces of nature.  But the God whom we resist is the One that, deep down we know.  It is “He with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4: 13).  This God is the Judge of souls.  He sees and He knows.  He unnerves us.  This is why we instinctively seek to escape from our knowledge of Him.  This sinful turning from God is what gives men a predisposition for untruth (Rom. 1:22), for there is nothing left for him to find.  We piece together desperate explanations that will convince us that the Planner and Constructor of the world isn’t there, and then we ask why we are here.  Man has become futile in his thinking, blind in his seeing, he “loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds, indeed, he is evil”(Jn. 3:19; Matt. 7:11).

A Historical Event

We need to add that all of this biblical information about the Fall is historical.  It is not to be conveyed away by calling it ‘myth’ or ‘fable.’  As Kenneth Mathews, in his outstanding commentary on Genesis explains,

“If Genesis 1-3 is theological story without correspondence to reality, the creation account conveys no information about creation except that it owes its existence to God.  This undermines the very purpose of the preamble, which establishes a real linkage between creation and covenant history, for the latter is clearly rooted in history…Genesis has treated Adam and Eve as real historical individuals…Interpreting “Adam” as a symbolic figure alone flies in the face of the chronologies (chaps. 5 and 11) that link Adam as a person to Israel’s father, Abraham.” – Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 110-111.

The creation and fall of Adam is not to be brushed off as a theological parable; it is our ancestry!

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