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"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." -- CS Lewis

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fall and Common Grace

The Fall of humanity, as we are told, is the loophole that sin used to enter God’s perfect world. Without it, we would supposedly be living in blissful communion with our Creator and the rest of His creation, but alas we were not capable of upholding such standards. Since then, sin has taken up dominion in this world, pervading all parts of life, as Plantinga brings to light in chapter 3 of Engaging God’s World.

One element Plantinga develops is the notion of “sin” versus the notion of “evil.” As he says, “All sin is evil, but not al evil is sin.” This shook my perception of what evil is, as I would throw both terms around loosely and interchangeably, not thinking that one could be divorced from the other. Evil, however, is something more vast than sin. Evil is the cause of the fallenness of the world, through both human and non-human ways. Only humans are capable of actually sinning, as we were created with a conscience and a soul, but animals too are capable of evil. Plantinga’s example is that of cruelty and savagery, particularly as is pertains to the food chain; animals slaughter, maul, and maim each other, and this is apparently a result of evil in the world. Since evil is the perversion, in any shape or form, of God’s perfect world, it does indeed have a hold of the earth and blocks our connection with the One that truly is in charge of it. Although it is difficult to say whether carnivores are actually a result of the Fall, it still seems evil in many circumstances.

Just like many things throughout the rest of creation, though, evil has its opposite to balance it out: good. Plantinga shows us that “evil needs good in order to exist,” as it is a relative term and must be compared to something to determine its “evilness.” This then leads into the topic of “common grace” (a term I previously had not understood), and the idea that God created good in the world, and it is spread not only by Christians but by all parts of creation. Indeed, it would be foolish (if not downright scary) to think that all good in this world was of Christian doing, since Christians have had such a negative impact on much of history (e.g. the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition). To think that they only can give off goodness means that their power of corrupting it is as great as their potential to spread it, and would thus be a very tenuous single source. Also, there is so much good attributable to people of all faiths (or, in many cases, people of no faith at all) that common grace must indeed be a part of the whole concept of good and evil on this earth.


  1. Good observation about the difference between "evil" and "sin"--I think sometimes Christians fall into the trap of blaming things that are merely evil, or perhaps not truly evil at all--like natural disasters--on the sin of a particular nation or group. The truth, however, is that sometimes bad things happen that aren't the result of any particular sin, but of the world's fallenness as a whole.

  2. Common Grace is a really wonderful thing. The fact that God allows us to do good is profound. I think it also shows the love that God has for us. Even though we are fallen beings, God wants us to do good in his world!