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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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The Fall: A Christian Response to Evil and Suffering
Why do people do bad things?
In Genesis, chapters 1 - 2, God is shown to be creating the universe. Creation happened because God commanded it to happen. Christians believe that creation was planned and had a purpose and did not happen by accident.
As the story of creation unfolds, the author regularly comments, "And God saw that it was good." The world as God created it, Christians believe, is essentially good.
In the account of the creation in Genesis 1, humans are the final part of the creation. Humans are described as being made in the "image of God" (verse 27):
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female, He created them."
This does not mean that humans physically look like God, but rather that humans as God intended them to reflect the nature of God.
Humans are also given authority over the animals and the rest of creation, but with this authority also comes the responsibility to look after God's creation. Therefore, Christians believe that they are to be involved in the stewardship of the earth, caring for it and all the animals within it.
"Be fruitful and increase in number: fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature…" Genesis 1:28
Christians also believe that humans were created with free will. This is the ability to choose between good or evil. Christians believe that humans are free to choose between doing good or doing evil. As part of the perfection of the world God created, God gave humans free will.
Christians believe that God did not make humans so that they had to worship Him, rather He gave them the choice as to whether they worship Him or not and the choice to do good or evil. Humans have often made bad choices, choosing to do evil things. It is this evil that separates humans from God.
In Genesis chapter 3, the account that Christians call 'The Fall' is described. Adam and Eve, the first humans, use their God-given free will to choose not to do God's will. A serpent, thought of as the devil, tempted them and they chose to disobey God. The consequence of this was extreme. Suffering came into the previously perfect world. From then on, the Bible states that childbirth would be difficult and the relationship between men and women wouldn't always be easy.
Humans would have to work hard to live, and death became part of life. Adam and Eve also had to leave the Garden of Eden. They were separated from God. This rejection of God in the Garden of Eden is known as 'original sin'. Christians believe that now, after the Fall, our human nature has a tendency to turn away from God. This is why many Christians don't blame God for the bad stuff that happens in the world. They believe evil and suffering is because humans misuse their free will, choosing to do bad things, often causing misery to people around them.
HOW DOES GOD RESPOND?
Christians also believe, however, that God Himself provided the solution to the problems that our sinfulness has created in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus' death was an atonement for our sin. God, Christians believe, gave His Son, Jesus Christ to be born as a human and then to die on the cross.
His death was a sacrifice for all of humanity's sinfulness, offering salvation for all.
His atonement means that those who believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, can be forgiven by God and the relationship between God and humans can be restored. Christians believe you cannot win or earn God's favour.
God's forgiveness and blessings are grace and mercy, a gift that is freely given and not deserved or earned.
Reflect: How might 'the Fall' shape the way Christians understand:
- The suffering in the world?
- Problems in relationships?
- The state of the environment?