One of the best ways to see afresh the beauty of the gospel is to look at it “from the outside” through imaginative stories. Lewis is a master of helping us see things afresh. In this episode, Paul and Courtney want to consider the real loss that resulted from the fall of humanity’s first couple so that we can more fully appreciate the great love and redeeming work of God in Christ.
It’s helpful to think of the gospel in terms of a three-act play: tragedy—comedy—fairy story. We begin with man’s tragedy: the fall from innocence, the sin of humanity’s first pair. But then there is divine comedy: who would have foreseen God’s answer to man’s tragedy in the form of the incarnation? And who would have foreseen God’s answer to the tragedy of the cross with the resurrection of Jesus? And then there is the fairy story ending: one day, because of Jesus, all things will be made right—forever. All will be known by their true name and the redeemed will worship forever (for the gospel story never truly ends) in joy and peace and delight of God.
The gospel story is beautiful. It is a good and true story. But we don’t always appreciate its goodness and beauty. We become too familiar with the story. And so, we forget or fail to appreciate the gravity of sin, the real loss of the fall, and the great good of redemption.
To set the stage, in this second book of C. S. Lewis’s Ransom trilogy, Ransom has been sent by God to Perelandra (Venus) to keep the first couple of that world from falling into sin and disobedience (as the first couple in our world did).
Ransom battles—first with words, eventually with fisticuffs—the Un-man, the devil who hitched a ride to the planet with the evil scientist Weston. As the Un-man begins to sow seeds of doubt and confusion with the Green Lady, Ransom realizes he is supposed to oppose the Un-man. In chapter 9, the Un-man begins a new line of argument: the fall on earth was a great good because without it there would have been no incarnation—and no need for redemption. Lewis helps us see “from the outside” the great loss of the fall and the great good of redemption in Christ. With the introduction of sin, evil, and death, the original goodness and harmony of the created world was torn. And with the loss of their innocence, humanity’s first couple—and all of us as their descendants—lost something real, something that would have been amazing.
In this episode we want to consider this “real loss” of the fall, by exploring three “shatterings” that resulted from the fall.
The first loss, simply put is the loss of human flourishing. The answer is found in terms of four great relational goods that were all shattered: First, our relation with God was shattered. Second, our relationship with others was shattered: in the place of harmony there is no strife in human relations. Third, we became internally fragmented, or shattered: our thinkings and willings and emotions are no longer working in harmony. And finally, we are no longer rightly related to our end, our purpose: which is to know and enjoy God forever and serve him.
The second shattering is the loss of the deep desires of the heart. Stump has us think of our longings and desires in terms of an inverted triangle. At the top of the triangle we find our surface desires—the desire for that hamburger, that car, that Netflix-binge—and then as we move down the triangle we find our deeper desires (for love, beauty, justice, goodness, truth) and ultimately and the bottom: our deepest desire of the heart, which is for God. But because of the fall, we become alienated from God, others, and reality and thus many of our deep desires are unfulfilled. Even worse, these deep desires can be repressed or covered such that we don’t even recognize that we have these deep desires.
To understand this third shattering, we need to think a bit more about the doctrine of creation and a theology of beauty. This last “shattering” has to do with our ability to be beautiful and to point to Beauty itself through our lives.
- Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale
- Junius Johnson, The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty
- S. Lewis, Perelandra
- Eleonore Stump, Wandering in Darkness