O Felix Culpa; or, Redemption is not Plan B; or, Your Best Life is neither Then nor Now

If you haven’t seen this commercial take a second and give it a gander. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

When I first saw this commercial I thought it exceedingly odd, especially the last line: ‘When you were you.’   The commercial suggests that you were truly you when you were 16. Imagine that. Who would want to say that the real you is the 16 year old you? Who would want to go back to that?

Yet, this seems to be the general thrust of our culture. We live in a very backward-facing, youth-oriented society; a society that longs for some halcyon days gone by. To be fair, this isn’t just a contemporary phenomenon. Hesiod famously outlined the five ages of man, identifying his own age with iron, complaining that

Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another’s city. There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them.

Hesiod (who sounds like my grandparents) longed for that past golden age, much like many in our own age long for some golden age (usually in the church it’s a post-WWII-1950’s ‘Christian’ America, Leave It to Beaver-style longing). We tend to think that the earlier is the better.

Paradoxically, this view of things runs counter to the Gospel. It assumes that Eden was the end, that God intended Eden to be the final product, that the best was at the beginning. Thinking this way, however, makes redemption Plan B. On such a thinking, Plan A was for a completed Adam and Eve to live in a completed garden in complete happiness. Only after the fall did the plan of redemption come about, as if Jesus were the Jamelle Holieway to Troy Aikman’s Adam.

But this won’t square with Rev. 13.8,

 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

If this is true, then redemption was Plan A. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The Incarnation wasn’t a second thought in the plan; it was the plan, from the beginning. Creation has always anticipated the Incarnation. This means that Adam and Eve in Eden weren’t the final end, they were merely the prototype. Adam without redemption wasn’t yet fully and perfectly human. So, this means that the best isn’t in the past, isn’t in Eden, isn’t in Adam.

Redemption, then, isn’t a return to some golden age in the past.. It’s a moving toward a better country, that is, a heavenly one…, for he has prepared for them a city. This Better City is better precisely because it’s the city of the Risen Christ and His redeemed, the city of those for whom Christ died, the city of those who are finally fully human because they are born of the Spirit and not merely of the flesh. And one can only be born of the Spirit if one is dead. This means, of course, that Adam couldn’t have had the fullness of relationship with the Father until after the fall. Eden could never have been the end.

This is the good news of the Gospel. The proclamation of a King who’s bringing better things about than what He did at the beginning. Certainly, the creation was good, indeed very good. Nothing in the Gospel denies this. What it denies is that this very good creation was a completed, perfected creation. This completed, perfected creation only occurs after King fills his redeemed people with the Spirit, Who brings that redemption to a people built and designed to receive Him as only broken, fallen creatures can. The fall didn’t ruin God’s plan, it was an essential piece to the glorious puzzle, the piece that leads to redemption. A redemption that was the plan the whole time.

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Josh Spears, who continues to have one wife and now has four, fully post-womb children, continues to dominate the middle school Four Square circuit.