Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Plantinga Chapter 3: The Fall

I probably integrated some of this chapter into the creation section because they are in many ways intertwined, but here goes anyway. The fall... one of the most told Bible stories. We all know it. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the one thing they weren't supposed to eat (whoops...). For the record, yes, Eve did eat first, but Adam was just standing there next to her and she was like, "Hey Adam, do you want any of this?" And he was like, "Of course." So the next time you blame Eve, Adam wasn't much better. He was sitting right there. I like Dante's quote that Adam and Eve probably didn't last three hours in Eden. Why? Apparently even the first people had the curiosity of the unknown. In 7th grade I really wanted to watch the T.V. show Friends, but my mom didn't let me because it was too "inappropriate." I was so mad, and as much as I could, I would sneak upstairs to watch it. I didn't even like the show, but the prospect of the "forbidden pleasure" just allured me. When I was finally allowed to watch Friends, I had no desire to. That same thought process was in place with Adam and Eve. Then Plantinga discussed the implications of evil in the world, as the "absence of shalom" trickled into every part of the world. Sin is "culpable evil" that offends and betrays God. Since this fatal day in the garden of Eden, history is "in large part, the interplay of this light and shadow," a war between good and evil.

Plantinga then talked about corruption. Our own corruption corrupts not only ourselves but others, too. The basic Reformed position is in the T of Tulip: total depravity. As we discussed in class, however, "total depravity" doesn't mean that we are 100% evil 100% of the time. Plantinga wrote, "Even in a fallen world, ordinary practice ordinary kindness every day." This goodness is due to the Holy Spirit, but apparently the Holy Spirit can work in non-Christians as well. John Calvin coined Common Grace as "the goodness of God shown to all, regardless of faith, consisting of natural blessings, restraint of corruption, seeds of religion and political order, and a host of civilizing and humanizing impulses, patterns, and traditions." As I brought up in our class discussion, this predicament is evident in society, that "worldly people are often better than we expect, and church people are often worse... much worse." I agree. I love the story Donald Miller tells in his memoir Blue Like Jazz. He and some college friends set up a confession booth in the campus square. Instead of having people confess their sins, however, the Christians sat down with people and confessed their sins and sins of the church. The church has a lot of sins to confess. I found it ironic that I went on a cruise with 16 Jewish people, who acted so loving, caring, insert fruit of the spirit... than my "holier than thou" Christian (now ex) boyfriend. Of course, this pervasive depravity is not from God but from Satan, who tempts us (but we are the ones who give in!).

I like the majority of what Plantinga has to say, but the "total depravity" notion makes me nervous. I have never heard another side of the theological debate on this issue, so I don't know what else I might believe, but for some reason, this doctrine doesn't seem comprehensive to me. Depravity is not the end of the story (redemption is... which is our next chapter). Therefore, presenting this chapter without presenting redemption as well is a perversion of the Christian message. So to be continued when I discuss chapter 4.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Charlotte,

    You are right presenting fall without redemption is not comprehensive, even as redemption without fall or fall without creation. They are three inseparable aspects of our sad history. However, from eternity there is no ‘time frame’ that’s why it is Eternity! And from there the whole story develops. Just that we cannot understand it well (we all see parts of a whole) so also with depravity! Maybe you want to talk with some of your classmates that think more on the issue!
    I totally agree that there are people (not Christians) that behave more as we should be behaving… The only reply that I have found for myself is: “imagine what those ‘not so good Christian people’ would be if they were not redeemed and instructed under the graciousness of God?” On the other hand, it is not for nothing that Jesus told the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:20-22. Unfortunately, meekness is nobody’s forte, and yes, sadly we are a shame to our name!
    It only leaves me with a “forgive me Lord” help me to be a better vessel for your light! But it is not the container, but the light that glows! Is my light shining?
    God Bless,
    Adriana & Paulo