The Fall is a View of Life – G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton is one of the those authors who I have way more quotes from than I do books. Which of course, simply means that I need to buy more of his books. I’ve read perhaps his most classic work Orthodoxy, and it is probably in my top three books of all time. Chesterton is a master of putting things into perspective with powerful language. His relevancy for today is equal to C.S. Lewis and one day I plan to dive very deep into his writings.

One area that has taken up a lot of space within this blog has been the intersection between science and faith. If we consider the arguments from science that cause a problem for Christianity, combined with their actual merits, I believe there is one area that rules all others, and that is the historicity of the Fall. Of course there are other areas that would be, one could say, “even worse,” if they were deemed scientifically false. For instance, if miracles are impossible, then of course, Christians we’ve got a problem.

But note how I said that we’ve got to consider the merits of the arguments and not just their impact. And arguments against miracles are far less rigorously scientific and far more metaphysically snobbish. Therefore, from my own studies, I would say that the arguments and concerns related to human origins offer much more scientific difficulty to overcome than a simple argument against miracles. While there is significant breathing room for exactly what we believe the early chapters are and aren’t saying about this world’s history, there is no getting around that “the author intends us to see the disobedience of this couple as the reason for sin in the world.”1

Because of this, we can see how what we believe about early humanity is framing for how we understand ourselves, our world, and our relationship with God. This isn’t like a flat earth. This isn’t like a young earth. Those items have almost zero impact on the actual Christian story. But as Chesterton reminds us in the quote below, what we believe about the story of Adam and Eve effects everything:

The Fall is a view of life. It is not only the only enlightening, but the only encouraging view of life. It holds, as against the only real alternative philosophies, those of the Buddhist or the Pessimist or the Promethean, that we have misused a good world, and not merely been entrapped into a bad one. It refers evil back to the wrong use of the will, and thus declares that it can eventually be righted by the right use of the will. Every other creed except that one is some form of surrender to fate. A man who holds this view of life will find it giving light on a thousand things; on which mere evolutionary ethics have not a word to say. For instance, on the colossal contrast between the completeness of man’s machines and the continued corruption of his motives; on the fact that no social progress really seems to leave self behind;… on that proverb that says “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” which is only what the theologians say of every other virtue, and is itself only a way of stating the truth of original sin; on those extremes of good and evil by which man exceeds all the animals by the measure of heaven and hell; on that sublime sense of loss that is in the very sound of all great poetry, and nowhere more than in the poetry of pagans and skeptics: “We look before and after, and pine for what is not”; which cries against all prigs and progressives out of the very depths and abysses of the broken heart of man, that happiness is not only hope, but also in some strange manner a memory; and that we are all kings in exile.

Notes:

  1. C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 66
  2. Quoted in: C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 104

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