O Happy Fault!
I have been thinking about the fall. What tragedy. Adam had it all. A pretty wife (who was naked all the time), an productive farm, and a good job (farmer, priest, king). Adam never got sick, had no fear of death, and walked with God in familial communion. He was the son of God, and the servant of God. What a deal!
And then the rebellion. It began with the serpent rising up against his God ordained place in the creation to seduce the woman, who, rising up against her God ordained place in the creation to seduce Adam, who, having neglected the command to exercises godly dominion over the creation, rose up against his God ordained place in the creation. Amidst the order of God’s well balanced creation, Adam and Eve sought to be as gods, knowing (defining?) good from evil. Boy did they get their wish.
Genesis tells us that their eyes were immediately opened… an interesting detail. Their eyes were opened but their vision did not improve. Rather, their eyes were opened and the darkness flooded their souls. Death had entered the picture from the inside out. Sin had destroyed everything.
Sin destroyed Adam’s relationship to Eve. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. No longer at peace with God, they could no longer be at peace with each other. They had something to hide. Thus began man’s constant effort to find a way to cover their sin. Fig leaves would have to do. (Gen. 2:7). Adam and the women were the first pelagians.
Sin destroyed Adam’s relationship to God. Our first parents heard the sound of God coming in the garden and they hid themselves amidst the trees. Adam knew that God was coming in the judgment of the Day. Fear consumed them. No longer could they stand naked before their God with shame. Responding to God’s call, Adam responded- “because I was naked I hid myself.” (Gen. 2:10).
Finally, sin destroyed Adam’s hope of eternal life. This was it. This was judgment day. I do not know what the threat of God’s primeval covenant, “the day you eat of it you shall surely die” meant to a folks who had never seen death or known its consequences. Adam will know the full impact of good and evil. The hour of judgment is at hand. Death is the fruit of their rebellion. The story of man is over.
Well, almost. First comes the judgment of the serpent. The head of the dragon will be crushed under the foot of the woman’s son. God would destroy the rebellious union between the woman and the serpent. He would create enmity between the woman and the serpent, between her seed and his seed. Amidst judgment– promise. Amidst curse– blessing. The counsel of death has been transformed into a covenant of grace.
This is the moment that Eucatastrophe entered the world. Euatastrophe, that wonderful phrase coined by J.R.R. Tolkien to describe:
“the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary ‘truth’ on the second plane (….) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.” – The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, # 89 (7-8 November 1944).
The Church fathers put it this way- Felix Culpa (or O Happy Fault)! What a blessing was found in the darkness of sin! Grace has transcended our fall and made known the glory of God’s plan of redemption. God has come in judgment and has given promises. He has promised to restore peace between Himself and the seed of the woman by creating enmity between the woman and the dragon. A Savior would come. Sin would not be the last word. Sin could destroy everything… everything but God’s plan for His people.
And so Adam responded to grace in faith, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” This is no mere human-interest narrative about how Eve got her name. Rather, it is an act of saving faith. It is reliance upon the promises of God. It is a living faith that restores Adam’s kingly vocation of naming, and in doing so, thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
And what was God’s response to Adam’s confession of faith? “Then the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21. By the grace of God a covering worthy of hiding their shame. Far from a Mosaic fashion commentary, the word of God points us to the greatest Eucatastrophe.
Sin will be dealt with, but only through the shedding of blood. These animals died the death deserved by sinners. Their lives forfeited for our lives. But the blood of bulls and goats could only go so far. Only so far as they pointed beyond themselves to the worthy death of one whose blood did merit deliverance and salvation. The blood of the Lamb of God without blemish, the Lord Jesus Christ whose perfect righteousness would cloth those who call upon His name and rely upon Him as the only means of salvation. That is, the precious blood of the innocent Savior who suffered the full penalty of sin, and rose again in triumph even over death. This is Eucatastrophe, the heart of the gospel. And so we say again, “O happy fault!”
Not, of course, that we should sin that grace may abound. But rather, we rejoice in the grace of God, by which, even in spite of our sin, in fact, as a direct response to it, we, His church, has been exalted beyond Adam’s wildest dreams in the days of innocence. Consider:
1. Because of the fall, man’s dignity has been magnified and the race has been exalted by the incarnation of God as man in Jesus Christ. God entered into His creation as one of us. What if God was one of us? He was… not a slob like one of us… but the perfect man who kept the whole of God’s righteous law and suffered the whole of the penalty for its transgression.
2. Because of the fall, man’s dignity has been transformed by the resurrection. Jesus Christ is not dead. He is alive at the right hand of the Father. The tomb is empty. This is demonstrably true. But more, not only is Christ alive but He has bestowed the Spirit of that new life upon His church. United to Christ through the Holy Spirit, we have passed from death to life. We who have been baptized have been baptized into His death and raised with Him into life everlasting… into the very mystery of the Triune God-head (Romans 6:3,4). As the blessed Black Dwarf said, “God became man that men might become God.”
3. Because of the fall, we now reign with Jesus Christ in the Heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Not someday. Not, “when do I get my crown”. Paul tells us that we have been raised with Jesus Christ and seated with Him in the Heavenly places. We are united to the mystical body of Christ in which there is no death, only the treasures of Christ.
Sin has made a hash of this world, and it makes a hash of our lives. But, to the praise of God, sin… Adam’s sin… your sin… my sin…. cannot destroy God’s glorious plan for his people. We maybe sinners whose twisted hearts dwell on the fading glory of this age, but we are also pilgrim saints united to Christ and being prepared for a heavenly homeland. Sin has made a hash of things… but with the fathers we can say, “felix culpa” Oh happy fault! (that has lead to such a great salvation).