Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Mercy of the Fall

I have come to view the doctrine of the Fall as one of the most merciful and liberating doctrines in Christian theology. I'm not speaking of the event of the Fall in history. I would hesitate to label that event as merciful, although I do think that the freedom God gave to Adam and Eve, which enabled the Fall, was a great gift. A downplaying or outright rejection of the doctrine of the Fall in liberal "christianity" and some emerging-church circles is perhaps the characteristic in those movements which grieves me the most. G.K. Chesterton also found the doctrine of the fall to be liberating from the sickly optimism of his time. In his wonderful book, "Orthodoxy," Chesterton writes:

But the important matter was this, that it [the doctrine of the Fall] entirely reversed the reason for optimism. And the instant the revearsal was made it felt like the abrupt ease when a bone is put back in the socket. I had often called myself an optimist, to avoid the too evident blasphemy of pessimism. But all the optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit in the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit in the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I was really happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist's pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt in the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.

I certainly identify with Chesterton in the liberation I find in the doctrine of the Fall. It is through that doctrine that I can see that my "citizenship is in heaven," and that I am an "alien and a stranger on the earth." There was a time when I tried the kind of optimism that Chesterton describes, and it failed me... miserably. It was only through realizing that the world is screwed-up and that we're screwed-up that liberation, sanctification and victory are possible. If everything is a-O.K. then what's the point of coming to Christ in the first place? When we realize that we are sinners deserving of hell-fire and that we are slaves needing to be set free then we can come to Christ for salvation and deliverance. He will not disappoint.

No comments: