"Sin is primarily located...in our spiritual pretensions and ambitions. It is our god-like aspirations which destroy our life here and seduce us to make life miserable for our fellow man". Gerhard Forde - Where God Meets Man.
It's always good when this time of year unwraps something to get you thinking.
It happened twice for me this season.
The second occasion was watching James Cameron's new epic, Avatar, which I'll come to shortly,
but the first was watching a TV documentary entitled 'Tsunami - where was God?'
Visiting that still wrecked part of the world where this nightmare disaster struck, the presenter sought to look at the horror through Muslim, Hindu, Catholic and Buddhist eyes and answer the question if there is a God, why does He allow such dreadful events.
It's a question that my Father used to ask me in my teens when I was called by Christ all the time - he was never happy with my answers! - but this program at least tried to go further, asking about the nature of evil itself and why evil exists in our world.
The responses, in general, were pretty passive and deterministic - life is the way it is, it's just God's will, or things are the best they can be, so until something better comes along (paradise, nirvana, or the like), we just have to knuckle down, carry the pain, and get on with it.
Human ideology in general has little choice here, whether that's expressed religiously or not, but when 'Christians' turn around and say that's essentially all they have to say as well, that's a serious cause for concern!
The Biblical view is that there is a very key reason why our world is in this state, and it's wholly related to human rebellion. That reason is actually so key, in fact, that Paul informs us that the whole of creation, the very fabric of nature, has been subject to futility, to decay, as a consequence, so this is most certainly NOT how the world was made, or how things should be.
Our evil as a race lies behind the problem - nothing more, nothing less.
It simply won't do for 'Christian' theologians or scientists to stand up and say to look at the book of Genesis as history is folly - The writers of the New Testament would then be fools, and the entire structure of historical Christianity would be scuttled beyond salvage.
We may face a time when the Biblical understanding is certainly being challenged in a comprehensive fashion, but it remarkable how quickly our so-called 'wisdom' about who and what we are can be changed.
Back in the 1990's, Egyptologist Dr David Rohl presented a new case for much of Biblical history which challenged the classical understanding of ancient history and introduced an stunning new chronology for our past. Over a decade later, whilst still controversial, his approach had now been expanded not only to include the history of the Old Testament, but of the ancient world as a whole in a very comprehensive fashion - all because one man started asking very pertinent questions about the 'established thinking' (His second book, Legend, also gives a key pointer as to why our 'reading' of earth's past itself may be in trouble).
The scriptures leave no doubt that when we're talking about such matters, we are dealing with history.
There's probably another reason that the concept of human rebellion being behind our current state is not popular.
In the movie, Avatar, we're presented with a world which, whilst it has it dangers, is actually viewed as whole by the natives - a symbiosis of consciousness in all living things which equates to the divine - a harmony broken by the arrival (surprise, surprise) of humanity.
What is interesting here is that there are parallels to some of the "Gaia" type thinking that underlies some of the approaches to the issue of climate change - it's our world, we are breaking it, and we can and will fix it. Of course, it's never as easy as we think, and in the movie, there has to be a redemptive work to heal the broken world of Pandora, just as for our earth, the answer to our evil, our detachment, our blindness, must come from outside of ourselves.
"Grace", notes Forde, "saves nature not by adding to it, or by raising it to some higher level, but by allowing it to be, once again, what it was intended to be - the good creation of His handiwork".
The aim and intention is not some human utopia, where we tame and master the world to our liking, but the splendor of all things truly expressed in a manner that reveals the profound 'weight' and majesty of His nature.
As I watched the movie, I marveled at the wonder of the realm created before my eyes, and pondered on the work that is to come - when all will be made new.
In this world where evil and its results are so apparent, we need to recognize the God at work through such trial - the depths of the cross - to herald the wonder that approaches.