A Holistic Christian worldview: The Fall

By Dr. Ken Turnbull, Founding ACU Vice-Chancellor
Published September, 2014

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. ...in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
~Romans 8:19-21


The last article looked at the need for a Christian to have a “united heart,” or holistic worldview, was examined in the way creation is perceived. There must be full unity in the way we understand God’s complete, sovereign control over both natural laws and cultural and societal norms. This has direct implications in the way we make moral and ethical decisions based on our perception of the absolute, transcendent truth of God. This month, our attention is turned to a holistic worldview as it relates to the fall.

In the passage above, Paul notes that the whole creation is enslaved in “bondage to decay.” The enslavement of the creation in bondage to decay was the direct result of God’s judgment on sin that was promised before the disobedient act, or sin, of Adam and Eve. That judgement brought death. Disobedience of God’s law and the resulting guilt and death is intimately a part of our human experience in this world. However, it is vital that we realise that the goodness of creation is absolutely distinct from the devastating effects of sin in creation.

One way to consider this distinction is to separate the “structure” of something in creation from its “direction.” Structure is the substance, essence or nature of a created thing. We know what a girl is by our familiarity with the nature or essence of girls from our experience. However, a girl can be gentle and loving or, perhaps, if she has been horribly abused, she might be wicked and vicious. The fact that she is a girl is her structure. If we describe the girl’s character, or what we see in her behaviour, we are describing the effects of sin (be it her sin or another’s) in her direction. The nature of the girl is still a girl, but her direction can be in-line with sin, making her evil, or in-line with redemption, making her good. We can consider anything or any structure in creation. The thing, or structure, can either be directed towards God, or in obedience to God (expressing truth), or it can be directed away from God, in disobedience to Him (expressing error). The concepts of structure and direction are useful in discerning the difference between creation and the effects of the fall.

Many people wrongly identify an aspect of the parasitic effects of sin on creation and falsely identify that as God’s good creation. This is confusing creation’s structure and the impact of sin’s direction. Aside from Christianity, all other worldviews, religions and philosophies confuse creation and the fall in one way or another. As described last month, God is sovereign over all of His creation through His natural laws and His societal and cultural laws, or norms. Sin may repress or pervert God’s law, but it will never change or nullify it. For example, there will always remain the pressure calling for justice even in the midst of tyranny. The innate difference between a man, a woman, and their unity in marriage will never be altered in their creational structure despite the perversions of sexual sin and pressures for redefining related cultural norms and societal laws.

The pressure on Christians is to succumb to the world’s failure to discern the difference between creation and the fall, and respond by separating our image-bearing mission in Christ from our role as the salt and light in this fallen world. This plays out in the classic expression of separating the “sacred” from the “secular.” This will be expounded on in the next article.