Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Problem of Pain: Chapter 5 - The Fall of Man

For anyone new here, I am doing a series of "book club" posts going through "The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis. The format I post in is similar to my bible posts, section headings in bold, summary in regular text, my comments in italics. The only difference here is there are no section headings in the book so I make them up.

The Fall of Man Was Inevitable?

Lewis starts by saying the fall of man explains the previous chapter, but then he says that God could have magically fixed the first sin of Adam, but then he would have had to fix an infinite string of sins. Eventually if God stopped doing this we would still wind up where we are today. So he says that we are evil because of the fall, but then says that the fall was inevitable presumably because we are evil. Which is it?

Disobedience or Knowledge

The story of Genesis has the apple as a magic object in which you gain knowledge when you eat it. In the developed doctrine the magical properties have been somewhat dropped away and the focus is on disobedience. This chapter will focus on the disobedience angle.

I didn't realize that the knowledge aspect of the story has been downplayed in the church, I guess I'll take his word on that.

Careful of Definitions

It is said that we have grown out of brutality and savagery, but those words are poorly defined. Like many words we use them in multiple ways and it can get confusing if you confound the various definitions. If you mean these words to generally describe a type of primitiveness, then it seems like a fine use, but sometimes they are used to claim some sort of a wicked quality, in which case there is not really any evidence for that.

I completely agree with this sentiment. In fact, I would argue that a lot of the arguments that I see on religious topics are mostly people talking past each other because they are using different definitions for the same words. It's a shame because often times both sides agree on a lot of points (not all points obviously) but just don't realize it.

Recurring Original Sin

People have argued that the first person could not have sinned because he wouldn't have time to evolve a sense of community enough that he could do something that we call sin. However, a sin is a crime against God so a single person can do it.

Is this what he was saying? I was a bit confused if I'm being honest.

Every person who is self-aware has to choose whether his life will center around his own interest or around God. We all have to make this choice every day and whenever we focus on ourselves we are sinning against God. So we all commit original sin all over again every day. Even from an evolutionary perspective, original sin makes sense.

To anyone who says there is no cost to Christianity, how about this? According to this, you basically need to spend all day every day making sure you are focusing completely on God or you are sinning. Am I miss stating this? I am finding this chapter fairly confusing. Maybe he is just saying this is a sin, and not original sin.

Early Man

God spent centuries perfecting the animal form that became man. At some point this animal that would become man could even use tools, yet he was not yet man until God descended down from heaven and endowed him with a soul. Early man had powers, like the yogi who can control their own metabolism. Early man had this power in abundance and others. He could sleep or not when he wanted, he could control even the decay of his body and live as long as he wanted.

I guess the idea that evolution happened and then at some point there was a human that was a modern human and God imbued him with a soul is an interesting idea. It certainly seems to reconcile evolution and the bible provided you don't need to take the bible literally. The only problem is it seems to be just made up out of thin air. And the next part about early man having all kinds of crazy powers demonstrates just how dangerous this kind of thinking is. If you can just make up stuff and have no reality check on it where can it go?

We don't know how many such creatures God created, but we do know that at some point they committed the original sin. They desired to care for their own future in their own interest instead of in God's. They wanted to carve out some part of the universe for themselves apart from God, but no such place exists. The fruit may have been metaphorical, but it doesn't really matter, the point is there was a fall.

Again, interesting take of the story of the fall, but where does it come from?

After the Fall

When the paradisal man committed original sin, he started living for himself rather than for God and was therefore in revolt against God. Because of this, he lost the ability to regulate his own body as that was really God regulating it through him. God stopped letting the body be regulated through the spirit, and instead let it be regulated by the laws of nature. By doing these things, this created a new version of man that had "sinned itself into existence."

Something occurred to me as I was reading this. He makes it out to be this huge sin, but really all "paradisal man" has done according to Lewis is to act on his own impulses, the ones that were given to him by God. Why is this so bad?

God Saw This All Coming

It might be concluded that these events caught God by surprise, but that is ridiculous. "God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula." Also, this does not mean that if we had not sinned then God would not have had some great thing for us. When we talk of contingencies, we don't really know what we are talking about. Perhaps if there is some sentient species somewhere else in the universe they may not have fallen.

At least he admits that he doesn't know what he is talking about, but it sounds to me like he is trying to have it both ways. Did God know we would fall ahead of time or not?

Our Condition is Not Punishment

We are not being punished for the sins of ancestors. But we are being treated like vermin because we are vermin. It is like a child who is raised poorly and then is put into a good family. The child will act up, and the new parents will be disappointed in the child as they should. It does not mean they hate him, but they demand that he stop acting up.

I feel like a broken record here, but again, this is my big problem with Christianity. The view that we are vermin is a terrible thing to inflict on people.


Well, that was an interesting chapter, a decent story if it were intended as fiction, but puzzling to be presented as fact. It seems to be completely pulled out of his ass. I guess it was his way of reconciling evolution with the creation story, but it doesn't seem to be supported by evolution or the bible or any church doctrine I have ever heard of. So what is the deal?

Next week: Chapter 6 - Human Pain

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