ACPADI Book Club—Creation Regained Week 3, Chapter 3: “Fall”

The chapter on fall shows that the scope of the fall is “not only the whole human race but the whole nonhuman world.” (p. 53) Wolters ticks off some of the domains affected by Adam’s sin:

  • marriage
  • the family
  • the state
  • the environment
  • the arts
  • the academy
  • technology
  • emotional disturbances
  • mental diseases
  • bodily sicknesses

But the absolutely key thing to realize—and, Wolters says, the reason that theistic evolution misses the point of Genesis 3 and is theologically dangerous (p. 62)—is that all of these problems are parasitic on an originally good creation. “Sin and evil always have the character of a caricature—that is, of a distorted image that nevertheless embodies certain recognizable features.” (p. 58)

If this is the case, then distinguishing between the perfect original and that damaging caricature is all-important, and Wolters introduces a very helpful way of doing so: the concepts of structure and direction.

  1. “Structure refers to the order of creation, to the constant creational constitution of any thing, what makes it the thing or entity that it is.” (p. 59)
  2. “Direction, by contrast, designates the order of sin and redemption, the distortion or perversion of creation through the fall on the one hand and the redemption and restoration of creation in Christ on the other. Anything in creation can be directed either toward or away from God—that is, directed either in obedience or disobedience to his law.” (p. 59)

But God won’t let sin completely destroy His good creation. Jesus Christ is the turning point, “the ultimate and decisive antidote to creational distortion.” (p. 60)

There is a danger that we will “single out some aspect or phenomenon of God’s good creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of human apostasy, as the villain in the drama of human life.” (p. 61) I used this quotation in my dissertation, because Wolters points to human emotional capacities as one of the commonly named villains. I wrote a whole chapter in the dissertation arguing that not just emotion but intellect and volition and every other aspect of man was created good, fell in Adam, and is restored through Christ. We can’t speak as if the intellect is trustworthy, pretty much untainted by the fall, but emotions are fallen.

If everything is touched by the fall and everything can be redeemed, then there is no reason to cut a big dividing line between the secular and the sacred. As Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. used to say, “There is no difference between the secular and the sacred; all ground is holy ground, every bush a burning bush” (sorry—that’s from memory; I can’t find an original source). There is worldliness in the church; there is holiness in the world. The fall touches everything, and so can (and will) redemption.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

9 thoughts on “ACPADI Book Club—Creation Regained Week 3, Chapter 3: “Fall””

  1. Really, the most profound thought that this chapter offered to me was just how much was effected by the fall. Too often, I have looked at humanity and my own depraved nature, but I have lost sight of the fact that every aspect of creation has been twisted completely. It really makes you wonder exactly what creation really did look like in its pristine, untainted form.

    Again though, the big error that we as believers can make is thinking that the fall is limited to only a few areas, when in fact the reality is that every single aspect of life has been afflicted in some way or other. To make such an error could leave the door open to adopting errors in our thinking from fields that we labeled as fine.

  2. I think structure and direction end up being vital categories in any discussions about Christians and culture or Christians and application to daily living (which are about the same thing).

    There is a lot of talk these days about contextualization not only on the mission field but also now here in the U.S. Structure and direction ends up being important for doing contextualization well.

    Structure and direction means, on the one hand, that a person cannot set his own culture up as a standard. It too has been bent in wrong ways. It also means that he can appreciate diverse goodness in other cultures because no culture is as bad as it could be and thus has some structural goodness. It also means that contextualization must embrace what is structurally good about a culture but reject what is directionally bad.

  3. This is good stuff! Mark, I’m intrigued by your comment about worldliness in the church *and* holiness in the world. It sounds very close to some things I’ve been wrestling through, namely, the extent to which the work of an unbeliever’s hands (composing music? performing music? building a bookshelf? planting a garden)…..!) may “glorify God”, or at least “declare God’s glory”.
    Care to elaborate on your statement, and/or my question?

    By the way, my pastor (Chuck Bonadies, Suber Road Baptist, Greenville) preached an incredible message this past Sunday night on a Theology of Work, which is very closely related to this reformational worldview. If you have 35 minutes, I’d urge you to take a listen on Sermon Audio. It’s called “Glorifying God in Your 9 to 5”. He makes the point that our work itself glorifies God, not just “how” we do the work. (!!)

    …and that’s what got me thinking about in what ways the work of an unbeliever still declares the Creator’s glory…

  4. I enjoyed p. 61 as well. It reminded me of Ken Gentry’s argument in “God Gave Wine” that drunkenness (abuse) does not preclude Christian moderation (use). To say that any part of God’s good creation is evil is to align yourself with demonic heresy (1 Tim. 4).

  5. Dan, two months ago I wrote an answer to your question and for the first time I can remember, the system appears to have lost it. And then I asked Bryan Smith to answer you and he had the same experience! Very strange. Then we all got too busy…

    But it’s too good a question to leave aside: To what extent do the works of an unbeliever’s hands glorify God?

    Here’s my answer: man’s creative capacities both 1) come from the image of the Creator God, an image no man can eliminate even if he can mar it further than the fall already has; and 2) reflect the “blessing” element of the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28. I think it’s significant that God “blessed them and said” what we now call the creation mandate: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it.

    Kidner says, “To bless is to bestow not only a gift but a function (cf. 1:22; 2:3…).” (TOTC 56-57) The 1:22 reference uses very similar wording to 1:28, but in it God is speaking to birds and fish, who have no volitional control over whether or not they fulfill the tasks God gives them. Likewise, mankind can’t help being involved to some degree in subduing and having dominion, even if it’s an abortive and sadistic dominion or a wasteful one.

    Frequently, as we know, it’s not. Most bridges, I presume, were designed and constructed by unregenerated people. Much (most?) good literature, music, and art, too (because more people are lost than saved [Matt 7:13-14]). I think this is what I expect considering the fact that God has left His image in man, has left a conscience (Rom 1), and has never abrogated the creation mandate.

    Surely Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t build Fallingwater out of a conscious desire to obey the creation mandate and show God’s glory by expressing the creativity inherent in the image of God resident within him. But if it’s God who put the image there and gave the blessing (not just the command) aspect of dominion, doesn’t God get the credit?

    I think every good thing anyone does—to the extend that it is good—glorifies God. Who else could it bring glory to but the Source of all good? Are there some moral goods which exist in a neutral space?

    P.S. I did listen to Pastor Bonadies’ message, and I enjoyed it—but it’s been too long now for me to reflect on it! I do remember thinking that he’s definitely tapping into writing and thinking that come from outside the tradition from which he comes. For my part, the creation mandate is simply not something I ever heard about growing up.

  6. A small addendum: John Frame helps me see how someone could glorify God to a certain extent despite his ultimate hatred of God, because he looks at ethics from the normative, situational, and existential perspectives. Someone could hate God (the existential perspective) and still make a thing of beauty (the normative perspective—it follows God’s norms for beauty) that results in God’s glory (situational perspective).

    I know I’m using some technical terms from Frame’s philosophy, but perhaps they’ll whet some reader’s appetite to check out Frame for him or herself. It’s really not very complex when you let him explain it!

  7. I’ll answer in reverse order:
    I’m not familiar with Frame’s terms, but your explanation using his terms makes perfect sense.
    Yes, Chuck’s thinking (and worldview) are the result of wide reading and thinking, not just one little narrow stream…and it’s one of many reasons we love him! 🙂
    I appreciate your overall optimism about God receiving glory from the work of any man’s hands. That thinking resonates with me.
    In talking it over with Chuck, we seemed to arrive at the conclusion that the “optimists” who see so much creational goodness (like ME!!!) have to be careful not to miss the point of total depravity, and the “pessimists” (who I often feel like are all around me…) have to be careful not to miss the point of creational goodness, the image of God in all men, etc.
    Of course I would appeal to common grace allowing all men to obey the creation mandate, even “unwittingly”…but then again my “pessimist” friends don’t subscribe to the notion of a creation mandate…
    In the end we can’t call evil good, but nor can we call good evil. Both receive a “Woe”, right? 🙂

  8. You nailed it: neither Creation nor Fall must be allowed to overrule the other. God has let evil loose in His world, and that frustrates everyone’s work of dominion over creational goods. Only in the end will God make sure that Creation finally and totally overrules Fall.

    I was a pessimist friend who didn’t subscribe to the creation mandate. But it’s kind of hard to ignore. If we allow for the image of God to remain in mankind (and we have to with Gen 9:6 and Jas 3:9), there are no exegetical reasons to eliminate or abrogate its contextual brother, the creation mandate.

    I’m still pessimistic about human efforts to make the world better. But ignoring the mandate is an overreaction to theonomic postmillennialism, I think. But those pessimists are still Bible people, right?, and asking them 1) to justify the liberal arts and/or their day jobs and more importantly 2) to take Gen 1:28 seriously may help them swing back toward the right balance.

    Surely the Bible will work in real life, right? But what the pessimists use to replace the Creation Mandate with doesn’t work. It makes most people feel guilty for having to have a “secular” day job. I’ll stop there for now…

Leave a Reply