Week 2: The Fall
Although the “Fall” as a word doesn’t appear anywhere in the opening chapters of Genesis, it is the word we use to describe the fundamental rift between God and humankind. While it’s not a popular idea about which to talk (Who wants to focus on the extent and consequences of our brokenness and sin?!), it is an important doctrine of the Church. Why? For many reasons! The idea of our rebelliousness to God is found throughout Scripture and it is the reason we need salvation through the cross. It also has an apologetic concern: it explains how God can be good and the creator of “all things bright and beautiful” (as the hymn goes), but not the cause of those things that are hurtful, painful and broken. Genesis 1-3 makes it clear: God created the world and it was good, even very good. Sin didn’t enter the picture until Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they were not supposed to eat. The Fall shows that responsibility for sin, suffering and brokenness does not lie with God. It lies with us.
So, what does the Fall teach us? How does it help us? Although it sounds like bad news (and in many ways it is), it also lays the groundwork for good news!
- God is not the only actor in the universe. You and I have been given free will.
The Fall shows us that God’s will is not always what happens. God clearly said don’t eat of the fruit (Genesis 2:17) and yet Adam and Eve did (Genesis 3:6). You and I were not created as robots or droids! The story of the world is not a divine monologue. Part of God’s sovereign will has been to give us voice and decision-making ability. Even when those decisions go against God’s will again and again and again. Yet, this leads us to the second thing the Fall teaches us:
- If we have free will, we are to resist any deterministic worldview or outlook.
Determinism is the idea that we don’t have free will: that fate (or God) has put us on the path we’re on and there’s nothing we can really do about it. Some people talk about genetic determinism: that something is in our nature or DNA and so our decisions and lives are biologically pre-determined. Others talk about environmental determinism: that we’re the inevitable result of our upbringing, our families or the values of our generation. We’ve been schooled or socialized a certain way and that’s just ‘who we are’–nothing can change it. Some also talk about theological determinism: that’s the idea that God’s will always has His way. The way some people talk about God’s grace reinforces this idea. Some say that God’s grace is irresistible and that all we do is what we’re compelled to do: receive it. Because of sin, we have no agency at all to learn to live a different way.
Yet, the Fall teaches us that sin has consequences. We have a choice, even if it’s a limited one. Yes, there are things in our lives that condition us to be a certain way. Our DNA or upbringing might make certain things harder for us and certain things easier, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have free will with how we’ve been conditioned–we get to choose what we do about it!
We are conditioned, but not determined. The Fall means our free will and ability to choose well is faulty, but it is still there. Like a car that needs a wheel alignment, we veer to the left or the right. Yet, that’s different from the pessimistic idea of determinism, which leaves us with no free will or choice at all.
- The Fall teaches us to resist anyone who says God is, in any way, tyrannical.
The Bible is clear that God is omnipotent (i.e. all-powerful). He is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole of Creation. Yet, God has shared this power with others and to do this, He had to limit Himself. You can’t give someone freedom and choice without putting limits on your own. God gave Adam and Even free will so they could freely choose to love Him, and He also gave them authority and responsibility over the world He made. So anyone who says God is a dictator or tyrannical is, frankly, wrong. We also see this self-limiting for our sakes in Jesus. Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus, although He was God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself.
God is good. Evil and wickedness are not part of God’s will. The Holocaust was not God’s plan. War was not in His playbook. Cancer was not supposed to be part of the equation. The Fall means that Evil, suffering and death don’t belong in creation. They were not there in the beginning. They came into our world as a result of sin. Yes, they are now part of the process, but they were not part of God’s purpose. They are part of a world gone wrong.
- The Fall therefore teaches us to oppose the things of the Fall and choose those things that are good, holy and bring life.
The consequences of the Fall (Take a look at Genesis 3.) include:
- Separation from God
- Conflict between men and women
- Conflict between humanity and the rest of creation, including working the land
Where humanity was instructed to “be fruitful and multiply” and “steward creation and manage it” in Genesis 1, suddenly these things are twisted and distorted because of sin. They will become difficult and hard work. The Fall shows us how things are NOT supposed to be. And although our freewill is, yes, distorted by sin, because of Jesus’ death on the Cross, it can be healed and restored. And with that changed free will, we are to choose those things that:
- Bring us into right relationship with God
- Reconcile our human relationships
- Bring order and healing to our relationship with the world God given us
We are to rediscover the goods of creation, work, marriage and raising a family. Where there has been disorder and chaos, we work towards reconciliation and reordering, of the whole cosmos.
- Lastly, the Fall relates to more than just humanity.
Sin in this world began with humans, but the serpent tempted them to do so. As much as there is rebellion on earth, there is also rebellion in the spiritual realm. There are spiritual beings that have opposed God and gone their own way. There are spiritual powers that want us to worship them and not God Himself, and through them—and our rebelling with them—the whole of Creation has been corrupted.
God’s redemption plan is for more than just us humans. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world…” Not just people, but the whole cosmos. Isaiah 11 describes God’s future as including the “wolf living with the lamb” and how the “cow and the bear shall graze together.” Jesus calmed storms. Paul talks about our future as a “new creation” that began with the resurrection. The Fall impacts creation and the spiritual realm, as well as the physical, but through the Cross, all can—and will—be redeemed.
Questions for Reflection
- What difference does it make to see sin as little mistakes we make as “otherwise good people” or to see sin as part of the fundamental break and separation between us and God?
- Why might it be easier for people to say “It’s all in God’s will” when looking at things that are the result of the Fall?
- Read Romans 8:19-23. What does it tell you about how God’s redemption plan is for more than just humanity, but the whole of Creation?
- Where do you see the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 3:14-19) playing out in the world today?
A Prayer for the Week
Heavenly Father, thank You for your good creation. Help us to be honest in facing the consequences of sin in the world around us and make us willing to confess and repent from our part in it. Help us, as people of the Cross, to know more of Your reconciling and healing power in our relationships: with You, with our neighbor and with the world around us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.