Like many Christians, I grew up believing that God initially created a good universe. God then created humans, starting with the primordial couple of Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, while creation was still in its infancy, they managed to single-handedly stuff up the entire cosmos by dragging it down under a universal curse.
This is the story of The Fall.
Ever since then, the once perfect cosmos has been plagued by sin, disease and death. Furthermore, this curse is inescapable, every child inherits this fate at birth.
Welcome to a broken and dying world, where you will be bound by your dark and twisted heart.
What is the psychological impact of believing such an origin story about the universe and ourselves?
I have always been fascinated by science, especially cosmology. But over the last couple of years, evolution has increasingly captured my imagination.
Growing up in the Christian tradition, I was taught to view evolution as an atheistic tool and agenda. But the story of evolution does not need to be atheistic rhetoric.
The Epic of Evolution creates plenty of space for the dance of the divine to unfold.
I’ve since come to realize there are a couple of simple giveaways that something is amiss with the theory of The Fall.
If Adam and Eve only caused the universe to fall “yesterday” (in cosmological time), how do you explain dinosaur fossils? How do you explain the fossils of even older predators?
How do you explain the light of stars that exploded billions of years ago, that is only reaching us now?
Clearly, natural death has been a part of the universe since the beginning, long before humans existed, how then, we often wonder, can this story be a better story than The Fall?
It really depends on how we view death.
Death is a hard reality to grasp and to hold. The fact that we have been given this gift of life, yet it is only on loan to us temporarily is very difficult to integrate. It often causes us to worry, strive, and fear. No matter what spin we try to put on it, death feels terribly wrong and evil.
So naturally, we need to find someone to blame for this. And the options are limited. If we blame God for death, it feels like it will tarnish his reputation and our hope of living under the benevolent protection of a “good” God. If some malicious devil is responsible, then it might make him seem stronger than God, and again, this leaves us feeling rather insecure.
So the best option seems to be to blame ourselves. At least we can repent, or offer sacrifices, or change our ways.
So in order to feel safe, and protect God’s reputation, we must sacrifice our own identity and self-image in the process. The cost of this position is immense and damaging to the human psyche.
But, I wonder, have we misunderstood the whole point of life, and consequently the whole point (or cause) of death?
In the fascinating book, Evidence of the Afterlife, by Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry, they interviewed thousands of people who experienced near-death experiences (NDE). One of the questions he asked all of the interviewees was: “What did you learn about the purpose of life?”.
A common theme that emerged was that life on earth is a type of School of Love.
A vast majority of people reported that their NDE radically changed their outlook on life and led to:
- A deeper compassion for others and self.
- Overwhelming gratitude for this life.
- Elimination of their fear of death.
They returned with an entirely alternate view about their existence here on Earth.
Death is not the end. We have nothing to fear. This life is a gift. We have a unique opportunity right now to practice and grow in love.
Of course, we and our world are not perfect. We have never been. But naming sin, as a spiritual and intrinsic and inescapable blemish, is not the solution.
Every day we are confronted with the choice to live and care for only ourselves and when we do, we invite hell on earth. But when we widen our love and attention to include others, we invite heaven to earth.
Essentially, we choose to see life as a gift and an opportunity where each one of us has endless invitations to do good. Death, then, is not our enemy or our fault or a problem to address; it is simply a part of life.
What will you learn in your school of love today?