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Understanding The Fall

Curiosity 1:

Most people of faith, when they do wrong, want to be forgiven, that is, for the due punishment not happen. But I find that when I do wrong, my concern is not to be forgiven, but for the effects of my wrongdoing to be annulled. I would rather suffer the due punishment than have the effects of my wrongdoing harming others. ('Others' is especially other people, but can also be animals or the planet itself.)

Does anyone else feel the same way as I do?

And how do we account for this?

It seems to me that this 'New View in Theology and Practice' can account for this, because of its belief in the relatedness or interconnectedness of all things. Curiosity 2:

Christianity is so named because CHrist is central. Yet some Christian theologies make the Fall central, so that all other doctrines revolve around the Fall. For example, the main or only reason Christ came was to reverse the Fall. They have no other answer to why Christ came. This implies that if there had been no Fall, Christ would not have come.

This New View sees the Fall as not central, but nevertheless or crucial importance.

This Page:

This page contains some points on how the 'New view' understands what most Christian theology calls 'The Fall'. The Fall refers to humankind turning away from God, so that sin or wrongdoing entered the world, and that humankind ever since has a tendency towards wrong, even though much of what we do might be right. 'The Fall' is not a term found in the Bible, but is rather a doctrine that has been deduced from the contents of the Bible.

How the Fall fits into the wider context of New View theology can be seen in 'The Five Rs'. This page provides a summary of New View understanding of the Fall itself, which is as follows:

Contents:


What Is Meant By The Fall?

In the Genesis account, it says that the first man and woman ate of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" and by doing that they brought havoc on their own lives, on the lives of those who would come after, and on the ground.

What is meant by 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil'? There are three interpretations, not just the two that usually come up (which were Knowledge (Science, etc.) or Ability to Distinguish Good from Evil; see Note 2).

The third interpretation is The Right to Decide for Ourselves What is Good and Evil - that is, without reference to God, and with a certain arrogance. I find this one makes more sense (see Note 2).

Deciding for ourselves what is Good and Evil means not only in personal morality but also in, for example, policy and business targets and vision statements. It refers to humanity as a whole accepting or assuming that certain things are good, to be sought, to be aspired to, and to be worked for, while other things are assumed to be bad, to be avoided, to be denigrated and worked against.

If we take to ourselves the right to decide what is good, evil, and the creation works most naturally in line with God's laws, then when we happen to decide against the grain of how creation works, things will be difficult for us. A small example: See the following picture of rose bush in wheat field and wheat plant in rose garden, and ask "Which is the weed?"

[From Popular Science Educator, 1930. The text at the bottom reads "We speak disparagingly of weeds, but plants are only weeds when they grow in the wrong place. A rose bush growing in a wheatfield would be a weed, and similarly a wheat plant growing in a rose rose garden would be a weed, although it might be producing a fine head of wheat.".]

Rose bushes are only weeds if we decide that industrialized monoculture is Good and diversity in our fields is Evil. Sim. for rose garden.

Some examples from the societal sphere now follow.

Examples of Wrong View of Good and Evil

The military is the elite.

Killing people for the sake of the state (or other rulers) is self-evidently a result of the Fall. It brings untold suffering and injustice, even when the cause might seem good. In the renewed creation there will be no wars. Pacifists argue that we should refuse to fight, and this New View would be at least sympathetic to that view. However, it might also have place for something like the 'just war' idea, and the need to protect populations against evil invaders.

Whatever the difference between those positions, there is a deeper and more serious result of the Fall: Society has seen the military as some kind of elite.

If we acquiesce to the 'necessity' of war then should we not engage in military activity with repentance? Should we not see military activity as a low-grade activity, a bit like street cleansing? Both act to decrease evil.

But society tends to see the military as a high calling. The pagan Vikings had warriors who would defend their communities and, in compensation for this, the community would give them a portion of their resources. But these people became, not servants, but an elite, lauded as heroes. The ancient Greeks saw military activity as an art form. Romans saw it as entertainment. Hierarchies of military prowess built up, and military conquest was rewarded more than other courageous activities were. European nobility and royalty were bound up with the military. Earlier, when the people of Israel saw the heroic exploits of their pagan neighbours, led by kings, they wanted a king, rather than trusting Yahweh God to protect them.

This New View might take a pacifist line, that all military activity is sinful. But it is more likely to take a line that, in this fallen world, some defence is needed against evil doers who would oppress. (That is debatable when taken over the long term.) However, our attitude to military should be one of repentance and sorrow rather than glorification and elitism. The military, assuming it is valid in society, should be the servant of society, not the elite.

Competition

We assume competition is good. Does it not bring excellent in sport? we assume. Does it not lead to efficiencies in business? Does it not fuel the economy? Plants compete for light etc., and animals compete for mates, so is it not a natural order to things?

However, we might wonder, where does self-giving love come in, which gives way to the other? And, if we look over the longer term, does competition really bring all the supposed benefits? Does it not bring harm? Is not excellence at the expense of the overall good and the enjoyment for all? Do the efficiencies as great as promised, and are they not often at the expense of quality and effectiveness?

We might also ask whether there are not other motivations? Might not self-giving love motivate just as well? It is what motivated the turn away from slavery, and the good treatment of workers, on which the strong economy of 19th century Britain was founded directly or indirectly. Did not joy in God's creation helped stimulate the rise of science?

A case could be made - though it has never, as far as I know, been seriously studied - that the really beneficial and sustainable progress that has occurred has come about more though these motivations than through competition.

Humanity has come to believe and assume that competition is Good, but it is not the good we think it is.

Progress and Technology

Think about it in a similar way: Is technology an unmitigated benefit? What do we really mean by progress?

Reason as the Route to True Knowledge

Think about it in a similar way: Does not reason have its fundamental limitations? Does it not narrow our thinking? Is not wise intuition of great value.

Self-assertion as Interesting and Celebrated

Think about it in a similar way: We celebrate celebrities. We ignore the quiet and even despise them. But are the loud-mouths always the people to be most admired?

Urban Superior to Rural

Think about it in a similar way: Cain was told he would be a wanderer, so he built a city. Cities are when people are most lonely, most evil, most harsh. Are not cities parasitic on rural or town life? What is the real benefit of city?

Overview

There is a pattern. Humanity has come to hold certain things as 'good', to be sought and applauded, and others as 'evil', to be avoided or denigrated. But in most cases serious questions can be raised about the extent to which these things are the good that we have assumed, especially when we consider the long term and the entire span of society and world, rather than just those who form our opinions.

In such ways humanity has arrogated to itself the deciding what is good and evil, and has done so with stupidity rather than wisdom. And it is very difficult to operate in today's society without acquiescing to these assumptions. As a result, our lifestyles, behaviour and efforts are all misdirected and bring about harm - even when we personally might be good people. That is what the Fall is about, according to this New View.

Answer to Our Fallen State

Briefly, because it is discussed more fully elsewhere, the answer to our fallen state is not human effort to try to be good, nor laws, nor incentives and punishments, nor education. None of these penetrate the depth of what the Bible calls the heart - which we now understand to be the deep orientation of the entire person, which affects the way we think, the way society sees reality, what we deem good and bad, what we deem to be possible options, and so on.

So God stepped in, as the human being Jesus Christ, to effect a multi-dimensional salvation (removal of guilt, intimate relationship with God here and now, and restoration of our role as representatives of God and shepherds of the rest of creation, all in anticipation of a future more glorious new creation).

However, those who have Christ still experience our fallenness. We still do wrong. Can God accept us, especially after we have accepted Christ? What is to prevent us taking the continual forgiveness and just continuing in 'sin'? Is there an extra condition, like "... and you continue to try to obey your Saviour"? Paul addresses this in Romans 6. Not by adding an extra condition, but by pointing to the fact that we are new creatures, and so it doesn't make sense to continue in sin. The extra-condition thinking is from dimension 1 with no inkling of dimensions 2, 3. But Paul knew of these two dimensions.

Notes

Note 1. This is the meaning behind the rarely-used Hebrew word 'radah' traditionally translated 'have dominion over'. In Greek (and mediaeval and modern) eyes, if X has dominion over Y, X can use Y as resource for their own sake and pleasure. In Biblical eyes, if X has dominion over Y, X is to use that dominion and special powers for the sake and blessing of Y. Read Ezekiel 34, another place where 'radah' is used, and ask yourself: "Are sheep there for the sake of shepherds, or are shepherds there for the sake of the sheep?" If creation rejoices when it experiences God (trees 'clap their hands') then it is the role of humanity, as God's representative, to manage things so that rest of creation rejoices (not groans) when it experiences us. That is what 'made in the image of God' means, to me. For more about this, see Radah: Our Role.

Note 2. But the account shows humanity knowing and distinguishing Good from Evil before fall.


This page is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 8 April 2004. Last updated: 9 October 2006 added weeds pic; rid unet. 13 February 2011 link to punishment, new .nav,.end. 30 April 2011 intro and link to rrrr. 3 October 2011 New vsn of pic; text of pic; some rewording. 29 November 2013 remedy. 21 February 2014 rewrite of first part, giving examples of the fall in our attitude. 23 February 2014 reword military. 28 February 2014 New intro, more 'attracting' with 2 curiosities, and rearranged, contents. 15 May 2016 spelling error, new .end, .nav.