The Fall of humanity explained

July 12, 2013

Miracles was reissued as part of a beautiful series of Lewis paperbacks from HarperOne in 1996.

In case you haven’t noticed, blogging for me is mostly about writing things down before I forget them. So here I go again…

Earlier this week, I wrote that C.S. Lewis finally helped me understand a doctrine (God’s impassibility) with which I had struggled for years. And now he’s done it again—this time with the Fall of humanity.

Of course I know what the Fall is. Once sin enters the world through the first humans, death follows on its heels. Man’s harmonious relationship with God is ruptured, as is his relationship with Nature. I blogged about this second part of the Fall a while back.

But how does sin bring death? What changed within man after the Fall that he could no longer live forever? How does the spiritual ruin of sin lead to the physical ruin of death? Of course, it’s more important to understand that it does than to be able to explain how. But Lewis, as always, gives us one plausible account. So here he is once again, ladies and gentlemen: Mr. C.S. Lewis…

The spirit was once not a garrison, maintaining its post with difficulty in a hostile Nature, but was fully ‘at home’ with its organism, like a king in his own country or a rider on his own horse—or better still, as the human part of a Centaur was ‘at home’ with the equine part. Where spirit’s power over the organism was complete and unresisted, death would never occur. No doubt, spirit’s permanent triumph over natural forces which, if left to themselves, would kill the organism, would involve a continued miracle: but only the same sort of miracle which occurs every day—for whenever we think rationally we are, by direct spiritual power, forcing certain atoms in our brain and certain psychological tendencies in our natural soul to do what they would never have done if left to Nature.[1]

Earlier in the book, Lewis said much more about this “miracle which occurs every day”—which is rational thought. He argues that if Naturalism explains everything without recourse to anything beyond Nature, then the “certainty which we express by words like must be and therefore and since” is nothing more than a “feeling in our own minds and not a genuine insight into realities beyond them.”[2]

Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true… and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.’ (Possible Worlds, p. 209)[3]

The Christian (not to mention common sense) response to this is to say, “No, we have this intangible, spiritual thing above our merely physical brains—namely, our minds—that directs and superintends our thoughts, words, and actions.” To be sure, we Christians (along with nearly everyone else who’s ever lived) could be wrong about this. But if we are wrong, consider what we lose: If strict materialism is true, then our experience of mind and self-consciousness is an illusion created through the cause-and-effect of particles colliding in the mushy stuff inside our skulls. There is no “mind” that isn’t itself the product of unthinking—literally irrational—processes. Therefore reason itself is meaningless.

Since we have minds, however, we already have within us an example of a spiritual force that has the power to subject at least one part of the physical world (namely, our bodies) to itself—as Lewis says, “forcing certain atoms in our brain and certain psychological tendencies in our natural soul to do what they would never have done if left to Nature.” Now imagine, prior to the Fall, possessing this spiritual power so thoroughly and completely that the natural process that leads to death (without the spirit’s intervention) would forever be impeded.

Make sense? It does to me.

If that seemed a little heavy, here’s some music to lighten our load. I do believe in miracles—and one of them is surely Colin Blunstone’s voice!

1. C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 204-5.

2. Ibid., 21.

3. Ibid., 22.

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