Reflections of a Broken Man

On Why The Fall is a Fall, and Why It Matters by StephenMac
October 1, 2009, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Reflections

**Currently listening to Rust (The Short Story of Mary Agnosia) – Anchor & Braille… hooray! I finally have the album! Not bad, but definitely not Anberlin… **

I recently did an essay, answering the question “What theological consequences flow from a denial of an historical fall?” It was a really poor essay, finished in three days. But I did learn a little, despite not delving as deeply as a should have. That, is my disclaimer to this post.

My brother and friend, duck5, writes:

as you would know, i’ve just finished an essay on the consequences of denying an historical fall (here, here, and here). the position i finished at was that the idea of “the fall” is not what Genesis 3, nor the rest of the testimony of the bible, is trying to get across.

rather, as Karl Barth agreed with me, “the first man was immediately the first sinner.” (CD IV.1 §508)

so as we discussed the idea of the fall, we didn’t use the terminology of “fall”, but analysed what the story said. and it said that sin consists of disobedience, selfishness, disrespect, but primarily trusting Satan’s lies. we agreed that none of us would have been different, and that this grasping against God is something we all continue.

While I acknowledge that duck5 has researched this more and thought much harder and longer than I, I do have a problem with this conception, particularly Barth’s quote.

Our doctrine of humanity is at stake. Man was created good. Man was created in God’s image, and created perfectly. As such, man cannot be immediately the first sinner. It is the word immediately that I find fault with. I can say the first man was the first sinner, but not was immediately the first sinner. There must have been a moment or time of perfection, of perfect relationship with God without sin, otherwise we must argue that man was created inherently imperfect. The consequences of this conclusion are twofold. First, what is Jesus saving us from? If man is inherently sinful, then Jesus, in order to save us, must remove part of our humanity. We must become less than human to be saved. Second, was Jesus therefore fully human? For if man is inherently sinful, then Jesus must be in part sinful for him to be human. This is a problem.

However, to say that there was a Fall, i.e. to say that man was perfect, and that he fell out of relationship with God, fell from perfection into corruption, we overcome these conclusions by arguing that Jesus is saving us from our fallen and corrupted nature. We also say that Jesus’ humanity is a pre-fall humanity, one fully human, but uncorrupted by sin’s effects.

Would love your response duck5.



4 Comments so far
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cheers for the shout out steve

i think the big thing i got out of it was resisting the desire to solve everything. not every problem is a paradox. some are antinomies.

trying to tie up all loose ends can be what gets us into problems like arminianism, and many other isms that have perfect solutions to every problem raised.

so i want to hold on the one hand the truth that everything God created was good. but on the other, as Solomon says, that there is noone who does not sin (1 Kings 8.47). i don’t feel like solomon or anyone until Paul even wants to grapple with the question of how it came about, simply that these are two truths.

the question of Paul is another question, but as i attempted to see it through this antinomy, i think he uses the story as Genesis 3 not to highlight Adam’s fall but Christ’s redemption. again, i don’t want to write off what paul says, but Rom 8.3 among others are trying to make a different point to a fall. they assume the sinfulness of all.

Comment by psychodougie

sorry for the late reply duck5, but I’ve been trying to think through our positions.

I too want to hold onto those two truths: that God created everything good, and that there is noone who does not sin. This is crucial. But as soon as we say “the first man was immediately the first sinner” we begin to blur those truths, making them somewhat fuzzy.

And I would argue that leaving those truths blurry is what will cause arminianism and the other isms. I would agree with whoever it was who said that “I refuse to be more consistent than the bible”: there are limits to what we can say. But in being reticent in drawing conclusions, I think we are sometimes allowing space for wrong conclusions.

Also, I think that Genesis 3 is quite clearly trying to tell us how sin came about. It wants to clearly set it up as a polemic against other accounts, and also, give us direction and scope for our doctrine of sin and humanity. While not a full account or even a detailed account, I hold that it is a factual account that if left ambiguous has problems…

You’re quite right: the use of Genesis 3 by Paul is to highlight Jesus and not Adam’s fall. But from elsewhere, we can develop a picture of Paul’s view of Christ’s redemption. And I think therefore that it is perfectly reasonable to use this to project back how Paul interprets what happened in Genesis 3. You’re right, many passages think about the universal sinfulness of man, and aren’t specifically speaking about the Fall. But at the heart of these statements are the presupposition of a fall. And it is this point that I think that the Fall is so necessary: not because it is a doctrine in and of itself, but because so much of our theology is built on it.

Comment by StephenMac

While I acknowledge that duck5 has researched this more and thought much harder and longer than I

i wish you wouldn’t say stuff like this steve. it unnecessarily brings you down and me up. we’re just friends and brothers in conversation.

Comment by psychodougie

If you say so, in which case, I apologise. But let’s face it: you did do a lot more work than I, and so take what I say with a grain of salt…

Comment by StephenMac

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