This is not a philosophical question although I am fully aware that all the great philosophers, especially the grandest of them all, Plato, had much to say about this compelling subject. To treat this as a mere philosophical exercise, one for academic shadow-boxing, would be to ignore the vast consequences attendant upon a faulty comprehension of the concept. Neither is this a political question and we are not treating it as coming from the actions of corrupt and clueless politicians. Truth be told politicians of all stripes have a lot to answer for, and in my writings I've dealt with them as appropriate, but here the tide of human history is too strong and the nexus of the problem more generic existentially and hence over and above political shenanigans. Nor, finally, is this a racial question and we are not going to be sidetracked into blaming one race or another for the multitudes of evils to their credit (hic!) or their toxic influence in the world. No, we should clear our minds of these encumbrances whether they be ideological, political, racial, philosophical or cultural and examine the topic question seriously and follow it wherever it leads. This is an existential question requiring a sober look at how something so good became so deadly so quickly and its inevitable toxic ramification for all humanity.
A serious question needs to be asked here at the outset. Did God create man perfect? Definitely not. Did God create man good? Absolutely yes. When man was created God looked on him and saw a creature that was upright and declared him good. Not upright in stature, not erect and vertical - even though man was - but in terms of all the non-physicals; moral substance, indefatigable soul and undying spirit so expertly combined and supremely and remorselessly operational. Nothing could be added to man to make him more man and nothing could be subtracted that would enhance his manliness. Man was created very good.
Did Satan tamper with man and caused him to be the wretch that he undoubtedly is? No, Satan's tampering such as it was, was merely ephemeral and did not have the power to influence man over and above his wishes. In truth Adam was not deceived for Satan knew that Adam was a rock upon which his nefarious designs would perish; so he instead persuaded Eve to disobey and falter. Eve then influenced Adam who with his eyes clearly opened and knowing full well the consequences of his actions took the retrograde step and as we say the rest is history.
Why did the first family fell from grace? God gave them everything and told them to enjoy themselves, populate the world and all man had to do was dress and keep the Garden; a simple case of ongoing maintenance. If only we were so fortunate as to be offered the same thing now because all of us would gladly take it, relish it and praise God to the highest heaven for his generous bounty to all mankind.
But what did Adam, and especially Eve, do with such a precious offering?
The Bible puts it his way, " Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
Here is the nub of the problem. God made man upright but man was not, is not satisfied and wants more than what is good for him or more than he can sensibly manage. Undoubtedly God made man with limited capacity for good reasons and man has always tried to burst those boundaries not trusting to God's wisdom and grace and his divine providence for his general wellbeing and preservation. Adam and Eve typified this distrustful attitude when, using their God-given freewill, they bypassed God and reached for a different enlightenment that would make them as gods with the mistaken belief that God was unduly restraining them. John Gill in his Bible Commentary puts it like this, "...not content with their present knowledge and happiness, they sought out new ways and means of being wiser and happier than God made them, or it was his will they should be."
This is the bedrock of man's decline and the foundation on which all subsequent rebellions rest. Simply stated man has the impulse to go beyond God's stated boundaries. Essentially not because he thinks there is something better or more attractive but because he wants to do whatever he likes and does not care about the consequences. Man has shown himself to be an undisciplined buffoon and as we have seen the consequences can be horrific.
Let us pause here to correct a famous misconception. The punishment meted out to Adam and Eve had nothing, absolutely and totally nothing to do with sex. This monstrous misconception is the stuff of thoughtless comedy and should be treated with the contempt it deserves. God does not play silly games like some of these wannabe theologians. God had told Adam and Eve (Genesis 1: 28) to multiply and replenish the earth and through sex that instruction was to be accomplished. God does not punish anyone for doing his commands and the forbidden fruit had nothing whatsoever to do with sex.
The prime reason for man's decline, the impulse to go beyond God's stated boundaries is augmented by another reason which is just as powerful as the first. It is this. Man has used his freewill not just to bypass God, which is bad enough, but to disrespect God and in the process his right of access to the highest spiritual and moral thinking has been abrogated.
This is shuddering to any right-thinking person and explains a lot about present man. If you disrespect and circumvent God expect God to cut you off from accessing those spiritual and moral verities that you need to make right decisions. Anyone so cut off is left to walk in the satanic darkness of his own polluted mind and the consequences are pellucid clear for all the world to see. The Bible puts it like this, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22)
Commenting on this verse in his Bible commentary Burton Coffman said this, "The soul which turns away from the knowledge of God is active in the turning away, but passive in the resultant descent into vanity and darkness, such a defector from the light becoming, in time, sub-human; because that part of his brain with which he should honour and glorify God becomes atrophied, hardened, insensible.
"This accounts for the otherwise incredible blindness which is the chief characteristic of many so-called intellectuals who have turned away from faith in Christ. Having closed the eyes of their minds with which they might have seen the invisible things of God, such persons eventually find themselves in a state of total disability in the perception of spiritual realities. How profoundly sad is the state of persons like that, with the highest academic degrees, perhaps, and occupying positions of trust and honour, it may be, and possibly considered by their contemporaries as the wisest and ablest of people, but from whose minds the light has gone out, and the knowledge of God has faded. Those, despite their worldly excellence, are the living dead!"
It is these two prime reasons, the impulse to go beyond God's stated boundaries and to bypass and disrespect God, working together and mutually reinforcing each other that has caused mankind to degenerate to its present, dreadful status.
Sometimes you seriously wonder if certain humans are really part of the human race. Take this example extracted yesterday from website http://listverse.com/2007/11/18/top-10-evil-scientists describing a microbiologist, Japanese Lieutenant General Ishii, "Some of the numerous atrocities committed by Ishii and others under his command in Unit 731 include: vivisection of living people (including pregnant women who were impregnated by the doctors), prisoners had limbs amputated and reattached to other parts of their body, some prisoners had parts of their bodies frozen and thawed to study the resulting untreated gangrene. Humans were also used as living test cases for grenades and flame throwers. Prisoners were injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects. To study the effects of untreated venereal diseases, male and female prisoners were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea via rape, then studied."
The question must surely be asked, can we do such inhuman things and still be a part of the human race? Can humans, capable of such horrendous atrocities, still lay claim to the fig leaf of civilization?
The one example I gave above was related to the Japanese but do not for one second think that they are the only ones guilty of atrocities or that they have committed the worst atrocities.
The Germans are tainted; reference the holocausts.
The Americans are tainted: reference Vietnam, Guantánamo Bay, Tuskegee syphilis experiment
The Russians are tainted: reference the pogroms
The British are tainted; reference their colonial campaigns
The Australians are tainted, the Israelis are tainted, the Europeans are tainted and the list goes on and on with few nations or ethnicities excluded.
When you reflect on how we got here just remember the specific path we took and the inevitable consequences that followed. The impulse to go beyond God's stated boundaries, and to bypass and disrespect God, have confined us to junk status and no amount of obfuscation or denial will alleviate the situation one whit. The answers for repentance and atonement rest with us.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013