Saturday, January 17, 2009

Plantinga Ch 3: "The Fall"

In this chapter, Plantinga addresses the problem of Sin in our world. He spends most of his time talking about how we are fully encompassed in Sin and we can see evil at every turn in this world. He talks about our total depravity; our inability to do anything good using only our own power. But he also talks about the goodness with which God created the world and that we can still see this goodness in everything around us. We are not completely lost. Plantinga also discusses the difference between “regenerating grace” and “common grace.” He describes regenerating grace as grace in which the Holy Spirit works in a person or situation to maintain the goodness which already exists and also to create new forms of goodness in that person or situation. Common grace, on the other hand, is “an array of God’s gifts that preserves and enhances human life even when not regenerating it.” God gives common grace to all people, believers or not.

While I was reading this writing, I thought of an analogy my theology professor once used to explain to my class the idea of total depravity which I have found helpful in thinking about this concept. He described the initial state of humanity (when Adam and Eve were created) as being on one side of a teeter-totter and perfectly balanced by the weight of Sin on the other side. In other words, humanity is equally able to Sin or to obey God. When Adam and Eve first sinned, it as if an extra weight was added to the humanity side of the teeter-totter, pushing the Sin side of the teeter-totter up above. This represents our dominance by Sin and our inability to do good in the world. It is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit that we are returned to the equilibrium (ability to sin and to obey God) in which we first existed. But this is starting to reach outside of the chapter on the Fall.

Finally, I really liked the quote by Madeleine L’Engle which Plantinga chooses to use:
It’s a sad commentary on our world that “integrity” has slowly been coming to mean self-centeredness. Most people who worry about their integrity are thinking about it in terms of themselves. It’s a great excuse for not doing something you really don’t want to do, or a friend to do: 'I can’t do that and keep my integrity.' Integrity, like humility, is a quality.
I think that this quote does a great job of explaining the corruption of good which we have seen in this world. It talks about the fallen idea of integrity which we have today – one in which we think of integrity as how we feel about ourselves and how others think of us. She then compares it to integrity as a quality – the way God intended integrity to be – integrity as honesty, steadfastness, honorability. Notice that this kind of integrity holds as its focus not ourselves, but those who live around us. I think that almost every aspect of fallenness involves this self-centeredness which L’Engle addresses in this quote.

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