Sin, Creation, and the Gospel
by John Davis
Sin, Creation, and the Gospel
Dr. John P. Davis
A biblical view of the created world and of the Christian’s relationship to the created world depends upon how one views sin in relation to creation. In Genesis 1-2 the created order is designated as good. Human sin does not exist within God’s handiwork. “Sin, an alien invasion of creation, is completely foreign to God’s purposes for his creation” (Wolters, 48). When sin entered through Satan’s deception, all of creation became ensnared in the throes of abnormality and distortion. However, Scripture does not teach that the goodness of creation was abolished by the fall or that creation is now identified with sin.
It is obvious to all that the fall affected the created world, culture, and the institutions of creation such as marriage, bodily functions such as sexuality and eating, etc. Wolter’s distinction between the structure and direction of creation is helpful in understanding the relationship of sin to creation. Structure refers to the order of creation as God intended it to be. Structure reflects the law of creation that the very nature (essence, substance) of something is what God created it to be. So we can think of things, humans, and institutions such as marriage in light of their structure and see their creational goodness. For instance, it is not the human, as a created being that is evil, but evil has distorted the way God intended humans to be. The created world is not evil but sin brings about the distortion of what God created. Sin is an alien invader into God’s creation.
When we speak of the direction of creation, we refer to how God’s order of creation is either distorted through the fall or it is redeemed and restored in Christ. When the biblical writers use the term “world” in a negative sense (Col. 2:8; Rom. 12:2; James 1:27; 2 Peter 2:20), they mean “the totality of unredeemed life dominated by sin outside of Christ.” Christians who delimit some areas of the created world by calling them “worldly” or “secular” make a grave mistake, as if there is no worldliness in the church or there can be no holiness in the arts or politics. Many Christians have abandoned the “secular” realm and “consequently” the forces of evil often rule. Humans still have responsibility for the created order (structure) but this can be distorted by the fall or it can be redeemed and restored through Christ (direction).
From the fall of man on, all of future history and revelation is redemptive in nature. The effects of sin are so pervasive and powerful that only a divine solution will suffice. When you move from the fall in Genesis 3 to chapter 4, you immediately realize that sin has passed from parent to child. The story of Cain and Able is not told to “warn us of the dangers of jealousy and
hatred. Rather it shows the solidarity of the human race in Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21); sin has been passed on to the next generation. Moreover, it demonstrates the alienation between an individual, his brother, and his God” (Vangemeren 87).
The pervasive and powerful effects of sin as revealed in the history of Genesis 4-11 prepare us for God’s sovereign intervention in the call of Abraham and the series of covenants that anticipate Jesus Christ, God’s only solution for sin. All the distortion of God’s created order (structure) and all distortion because of the fall (direction) are ultimately restored through God’s Anointed, Jesus Christ. The complete restoration awaits the Consummation when sin and its effects will be removed (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-5).
This conviction that only Christ can fully restore a fallen creation and that only Christ can redeem and restore a fallen life keeps us dependent upon God and involved in prayer, evangelism, and loving acts of justice and mercy. While we continue to bring Christ’s redemption and restoration to bear upon the present created order, we do so knowing that the kingdom rule of Jesus Christ and the removal of sin is the ultimate solution.
If man is basically good, or at least perfectible, apart from spiritual renewal, then the Christian approach to reformation of society will inevitably be primarily through government-sponsored education and civil legislation. If men are dead in trespasses and sins, darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, then inevitably the Christian approach to society will be primarily through prayer and evangelism. If the sin that is in the world is mere creaturely limitation, ignorance, poor heredity, or bad government, the conclusions are the same. The Christian approach to society will be mainly by education and legislation or perhaps attempted improvement of heredity through biological manipulation of conception.
But if the sin of the world is a form of bond-slavery to evil, evil in man himself constantly encouraged by demonic evil in the world itself, then the Christian’s hope for cleansing the world’s educational and legislative processes will be realistic as well as real. He will not expect to change the processes of society for the better apart from doing something to make men better.
This is to say that the Christian is certainly to approve indirect Christian social action through legislative and general educative processes. He also knows hopes for enduring improvement from these quarters are chimerical apart from bringing sizeable numbers of men into spiritual enlightenment. This is to say that prayer and evangelism in the context of vital evangelical Christianity must remain always at the heart of Christian social action. (Culver 1972, 115).
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