Jesus' Mercy Changes Me, We and the World

Fallen World

The expression “a fallen world” comes from Genesis 3. In this story, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman that God created, break God’s rule forbidding them from eating from the Tree of Knowledge. After they eat “the forbidden fruit” (also where that idiom comes from) they are kicked out of the Garden of Eden and doomed to a life of struggle. 

This story has been theologized into some very foundational doctrines for Christianity. It gives us all sorts of teachings about sin—original sin, temptation, Calvin’s belief in the “total depravity” of Humans, etc—some of which may be useful, and others may not be. 

Bible scholars point out, that the story never explicitly states eating the fruit was sinful. 
Some scholars suggest there is a a way to read the story where it is not about sin—or even a “fall.” 

For starters, despite a lot of belief to the contrary, “The Devil” does not appear in the story. In the original Hebrew, Adam and Eve are tempted by a “serpent.”  

Some theologians interpret the story like this: God did not want the people to have knowledge, for some ungiven reason. But the Serpent believed the world could be so much more with knowledge. It told this to Adam and Eve, and once they had knowledge, everything changed. They saw the world for what it was: creation was good, but not good enough. Once they had this understanding, God changed the plan. God forced the humans to use their knowledge of Good and Evil to go into the world and fix it. The existence of Humans was no longer one of relaxation, but of co-creation with God. 

This is really important.
Too often, the belief in “a fallen world” has been used to justify toxic behaviors—like racism or sexual assault. 
Too often, it has been used to explain tragedies—like natural disasters or untimely death.  
Too often, preachers have said bad things happen because of sin.

I don’t believe bad things happen because of sin or a fallen world. I believe humans have knowledge. Sometimes knowledge is a gift, and sometimes it is curse. But I believe bad things happen because of misused knowledge of Good and Evil. 

When we don’t learn about the lived experience of others, we institutionalize oppression. 
When we don’t believe people, we allow violence and assault to continue. 
When we don’t study nature when we plan societies, we get natural disasters. 
When we don’t recognize that science is learning new things everyday, we see untimely death while we search for better treatments and preventions. 

The world isn’t fallen… it’s beautiful! 
And we Humans have a role to help God make it even better. 

Zach Herzog