Friday, January 29, 2010

EDEN - Perelandra, and The Fall of Man Into Sin as a Real Loss

Yes, I've taken a long break from blogging. In fact, it was such a long break that I should now have more than enough topics on my mind to keep me blogging every week for months. January has been a very busy month here. My family runs fifty goats and we just went through kidding season while my Dad was on a business trip overseas. We now have eighteen baby goats running around the farm and several more on the way. Several have to be bottle fed around the clock. I'm tired. My eleven-year-old sister also broke her arm this week.

There's a topic that I've spent so much time thinking on over the past year, I'm going to take at least two posts to write about it: EDEN.

To be quite honest, it all began with C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, which I begin to understand is probably the most overlooked and underrated book I've ever read. For months after reading it, I continued to persist in my opinion that The Space Trilogy was dry and difficult to read and that there was really nothing wonderful about it. But when I think back and realize how much Perelandra has influenced my life, and how much it has encouraged and inspired and excited me even during the months in which I was insisting that I didn't really like it, I think I need to go back and read it again.

But before I write about Perelandra, I'm going to write about its prequel, Out Of The Silent Planet. In this first book of The Space Trilogy, a man from planet Earth is taken to another planet, a perfect planet without a "fall into sin." At one point the protagonist, Ransom, tries to explain the concept of sin to some of the creatures on the other planet, but they are totally unable to understand him. The only word in their language that can even be used to refer to sin is the term "bent" or "twisted." Ransom tries to talk to them about promiscuity and they are not even able to understand what could possibly induce a creature to want to be unfaithful. Their nature is not evil like ours, and every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts is only good all the time.

In Perelandra, Ransom is taken to another "un-fallen" planet to save it from a fall into sin. The book raises all kinds of thrilling and important topics, from the sovereignty of God to the need for Law, to righteous hatred, to demon possession. But the thing that I found the most interesting was the assertion of the superiority of a perfect world.

At one point in the book Ransom is wrestling in his mind over whether or not he can risk his entire life for a faint hope of saving the perfect planet. He begins to ask himself if, after all, it is so necessary to save the planet in the first place. If it were to fall, surely God would redeem it eventually, just as He did ours. Not in the same way, maybe, but it would be redeemed. And his mind, agonized and afraid of doing what he knows he should do, begins to wonder if perhaps redemption is better anyway than un-fallen perfection. After all, didn't we get Jesus out of the Fall? Don’t we have the Kingdom of God among us, and the Spirit of God dwelling in us? However, these lines completely void his argument:

"Whatever you do, He will make good of it, but not the good He had prepared for you. That is lost forever. The first King and Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought of it good in the end, but what they did was not good, and what they lost we have not seen, and there were some to whom no good ever came nor ever will come."

After Ransom makes his decision he goes and finds the "Eve" of the planet sleeping in the woods, and there is this beautiful and heart-breaking passage:

"As he stood looking down on her, what was most with him was an intense and orphaned longing that he might, if only for once, have seen the great Mother of his own race thus, in her innocence and splendor. 'Other things, other blessings, other glories,' he murmured. 'But never that. Never in all worlds, that. God can make good use of all that happens. But the loss is real.'"

The loss is real. We don't know everything that we lost when we fell into sin, but it is a real loss - a loss of things that God wanted us to have. And because of this fall, everything here that was created whole and lovely and majestic is broken.

I was instant messaging a good friend of mine a couple nights ago and we were talking about this concept of brokenness as a result of the human fall into sin. I think that very often we don't even come close to realizing how deeply sin has perverted everything in the world. Sin has perverted even the good things. The world is messed-up and even the beautiful things are adulterated. If you just take a minute to think about this, you can trace the effects of sin in every sphere of life. Here are a few I thought of off the top of my head:

Human Love: As Galadriel says in The Fellowship of The Ring, "In all lands, love is now mingled with grief." Love in our world comes with pain. I'm not necessarily talking about romantic love between the sexes here, but just about love in general. Even the very purest and deepest love that we have for other people is sure to get us hurt in some way, whether by death or betrayal or separation or misunderstanding or something else.

Nature/The Outdoors: The nature that is still praised by poets and idealists as the way to relax the mind and still sought by city people as a refuge from the horrors of social problems and urban stress, is messed-up. Cruelty is manifest in nature. The fittest survive, and the weak suffer.

Human Nature: The nature of men has been destroyed. Our "natural" lusts for blood and violence and ready sex are indicators that nature is not absolute, and has definitely failed. Our more subtle desires for power and position and fame and wealth and control at any cost are other examples of this perversion.

Human Beauty: God made us in His image, and we are beautiful. But how frequently our beauty is corrupted by our lusts! How frequently are beautiful people regarded not as living testimonies to the glory of the Creator but as things to be played with and discarded when we are tired of them! And how frequently we refuse to reflect the beauty of God in our bodies and instead choose to allow ourselves to be ugly?

My friend was highlighting the fact that even God, when He is blessing us with the most vital and important things, has to break us to do so. We live in a sinful world, and when we hurt and break ourselves with sin, the only way for Him to heal us is to re-break the bone we’ve broken and set it correctly. It's almost a contradiction that the perfect and Almighty God has to heal us by breaking us again. Jars of Clay has a sweet, sad song about brokenness and the wretched condition of humanity and their first lines go like this:

"Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone……"

After reciting a list of the horrific evils, they end it with the simple cry,

"Oh my God,
Oh my God,
Oh my GOD!"

You can listen to this song here:

That is what I feel like saying sometimes. There are some things so evil that nothing else can carry their weight. Sometimes, when I get hit in the face by the full force and understanding of the depth of our fall, the only thing worth saying is, "Oh my God," because as George MacDonald puts it in Sir Gibbie, "Jesus is the one rock where evil finds no echo. Jesus is the cavern of destroying love into which all evil tumbles and finds no reaction and ends forever."

P.S. If that struck you as a slightly depressive post, don't worry: the next one will more than make up for it!


Brad Keating said...

Hi StrongJoy,
Long time since we've talked. I miss you guys!

I felt the same way about the Space Trilogy the first time I read it. Especially the last one, which I started and put down several times before finally making it through. But every time I read them again I like them more. They are wonderful, and are in my list of top 20 favorite books. And That Hideous Strength is actually my favorite of the 3 now. In fact, I think it's time to read them again, since it's been at least 5 years I think.

Sorry to hear Gwyndolyn broke her arm!

Love you,

Abby Rogers said...

I have really been meaning to read the trilogy, I absolutely love many of C.S. Lewis' other books. You've inspired me!

We seem to be rather similar people. Maybe you would enjoy my blog:

I enjoyed yours!

Martha Henderson said...

An interesting and intelligent post. Thanks.

Jordan said...

lol, maybe I will have to attempt that series again :D.
Great post :)