By L. Alfred James
Recently, we’ve seen that there is something very wrong with the human race. In the last couple of months, we’ve seen that human beings are not good by nature. Indeed, our experience is more like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than the Frankenstein monster. And we also saw how the selfishness and cruelty of human beings requires us to believe in some kind of fall, an event in history where human nature changed.
To see why this matters you need to first see how explicit the Bible is when telling us about this change.
The Fallout of the Fall
After Adam sinned, God explained to him that his world was radically changing. Up until now, Adam simply had to take care of the Garden of Eden. Today, the Garden of Eden would definitely be ranked at the very top of the “Best Places to Work” by Forbes, fortune.com, or GlassDoor. It was a sweet gig.
Yet, it wasn’t a sweet gig merely because it was easy. It was a sweet gig because God’s presence saturated the garden. God actually walked in the garden “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8).
But that all changed when Adam ate the fruit God commanded him not to eat. Afterward, God told him the consequences:
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
I don’t claim to understand all of the implications of this announcement by God. But I do claim to know one thing: The world changed that day. There is no way around it. Even if you want to interpret these first few chapters of Genesis in a figurative sense, you have to admit that Adam’s world was dramatically altered after he sinned. His relationship with the soil changed, requiring hard work on his part, and his relationship with other human beings changed (which is why he was wearing fig leaves). Most of all, man’s relationship with God changed. Adam was now banished from God’s presence (Genesis 3:23).
So, if you want to know why people can’t get along and why the world is a mess, that is your answer. The Bible is very explicit. Everything changed that day.
Why the Fall is so Important
The fall exonerates God from the blame of humanity’s current condition because we have chosen to disobey God. We (in Adam) rejected God and believed a lie. And all of us ratify Adam’s choice by disobeying God in our own lives, with the choices that we ourselves make.
Don’t blame God for the condition of the world. This was our choice.
But there are several other reasons as to why the fall is extremely important. The fall especially matters when you are evaluating different religious beliefs. For instance, if you just want to believe in the vague and fuzzy notion of a “God of love” like so many Americans, you should know you have a problem. Without belief in a fall you must believe God made people very warped.
In fact, even Islam rejects the idea that human nature was changed by the fall1. Islam teaches that Adam sinned, but he was not permanently marred by his sin. That means that the only worldview that both believes in God and believes that human beings were not made this way is the worldview of the Bible.
Please don’t miss the importance of this. If you believe in God, you have only two choices:
- Believe that God made human beings in their current screwed-up condition.
- Believe the Bible, which says that God made human beings with a pure nature that was good (Genesis 1:31), but they fell.
There is no third option that says you can believe in God, and believe he is good. Either the fall is true, or God is evil. End of story.
You may dress him up however you like. You may tell me that you sincerely believe he is a God of love. But I won’t believe you. A God who made people screwed up like this, as his original creation, is actually a devil.
This Goes Way Beyond Theology
But this doctrine is far more important than merely helping us to comprehend the messiness of the world. I am willing to make a bold claim: In the coming weeks I will demonstrate that your acceptance (or rejection) of this doctrine will dramatically impact your politics, your economics, your efforts to improve the world, and your parenting. Moreover, it will dramatically impact your spiritual life and what you believe is the ultimate solution to humanity’s woes.
In other words, this doctrine is enormously important. Don’t treat it lightly.
1. Normal Geisler and Abdul Saleeb cite several scholars of Islam to show that this is indeed Muslim doctrine. First, consider Badru Kateregga’s summary:
The Christian witness that the rebellion by our first parents has tragically distorted man, and that sinfulness pervades us individually and collectively, is very much contrary to Islamic witness. Islam teaches that the first phase of life on earth did not begin in sin and rebellion against Allah. Although Adam disobeyed Allah, he repented and was forgiven and even given guidance for mankind. Man is not born a sinner and the doctrine of the sinfulness of man has no basis in Islam.
Geisler and Saleeb continue:
Another Muslim author, Faruqi, notes that “in the Islamic view, human beings are no more ‘fallen’ than they are ‘saved.’ Because they are not ‘fallen,’ they have no need of a savior. But because they are not ‘saved’ either, they need to do good works—and do them ethically— which alone will earn them the desired ‘salvation.– Indeed, “salvation is an improper term, since, to need ‘salvation,’ one must be in a predicament beyond the hope of ever escaping from it. But men and women are not in that predicament.” So “Islam teaches that people are born innocent and remain so until each makes him or herself guilty by a guilty deed. Islam does not believe in ‘original sin’; and its scripture interprets Adam’s disobedience as his own personal misdeed—a misdeed for which he repented and which God forgave.” (Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, pp. 44-45)