In the last article appearing in “Beacon Lights” we discussed the effects of sin upon man and upon the creation in which he stands. In this connection there is an interesting quotation found in Robert Haldane’s Commentary on Romans. In his discussion of Romans 8: 19-22 he says, “When the creation was brought into existence, God bestowed on it his blessing, and pronounced everything that he had made very good. Viewing the admirable palace which he had provided, he appointed man to reign in it, commanding all creation to be subject to him whom he had made in his own image. But when sin entered, then in a certain sense, it may be said that all things had become evil, and were diverted from their proper end. The creatures by their nature were appointed for the service of the friends of their Creator, but since the entrance of sin they have become subservient to his enemies. Instead of the sun and heavens being honored to give light to those who obey God, and the earth to support the righteous, they now minister to rebels. The sun shines upon the wicked. The earth nourishes those who blaspheme their Maker, while its various productions, instead of being employed for the glory of God, are used as instruments of ambition, of avarice of intemperance, of cruelty, of idolatry, and are often employed for the destruction of his children. All these are subjected to vanity when applied by men for vain purposes.”
What was the effect of sin and the curse upon the creation? How did these grim realities change the course of man’s life and his relation to the creation? Is the cultural mandate still relevant? Does man in any way succeed in fulfilling the original command that came to him in Paradise? Is he in a position to accomplish anything of lasting value in the midst of the world?
CAPABLE OF GREAT THINGS
In answer to these questions, it is certainly obvious that man has not lost his ability to do anything. Life itself attests to the contrary. We have only to glance about us and watch the world at work to see what he is capable of accomplishing. Man did not become an animal when he fell in Paradise. Indeed, he remained a man-rational and moral. It is true that he lost most of his original powers so that his progress is slower by far and his ability to cope with the creation is greatly weakened. But he remained a man who did not lose all the powers of his original kingship, but one who is still in a position to subdue the creation about him. Even startling things he is able to do. A brief survey of his accomplishments will prove this fact.
In the realm of government, he develops the science of jurisprudence to a remarkable high degree. He knows what is right and what is wrong. And he embodies the principles of rights and wrong into laws. He establishes systems of government which are eminently successful in promoting the welfare of nations, and are even somewhat successful in restraining the violent outbreaks of the evil passions of men so that a certain degree of law and order is maintained without society plunging into chaos. In fact, in our day his main ambition is to establish a system of international law which will weld all the nations of the earth under a common recognition of the principle of justice. And undoubtedly, also this goal shall presently be attained.
In the sphere of economics he is able to develop the economy of countries by the using the earth’s resources to give men’s lives filled with prosperity and enjoyment of the good things of life. He is able to establish systems of economics which while they never erase the terrible struggles between the classes, nevertheless succeed to a considerable extent in supplying men with the needs and the luxuries which their souls crave.
His powers of science leave the lay man who has no understanding of the intricate work of the laboratories gasping. He indeed subdues the creation. He sends his voice and his pictures through the air into men’s homes. He searches the far reaches of space and contemplates trips there himself. He flies through the air and sails under the seas. He travels at incredible speeds over the land, in the water and through the sky. He gives ease and spare time to his fellow man bent down beneath the weight of daily chores in the home, in the shop on the farm. Leisure hours can now be spent as he employs tremendously intricate and complex machines to do his will and make his computations, and thus he makes his work less than drudgery. He makes the laws of creation perform his bidding, and the powers of the universe come and go at his beck and call. We live in an age when each day brings new wonders. We become so accustomed to his vast technical progress that astounding things warrant no more than a passing thought. Every year knows greater change; the wonders of science never cease. And in the minds of men, the scientist seems almost to be a god.
This same wicked man builds vast systems of education. He is capable of producing men of learning and scholars who fit exactly into his scheme of things; men educated to carry on the process of subduing the earth, men fitted to take their place in modern civilization and able to assimilate what has been done in the past in order to press on in the future to new heights of attainment.
In the field of the arts, he composes beautiful songs and symphonies, dramas and operas, he invents complex systems of philosophy, writes poems, paints pictures, writes books that become the heritage of civilization. In entertainment he is largely successful in keeping the minds of men from their troubles and in filling them with the ephemeral joys of release from daily tensions. He spends billions of dollars to give people something to do in their spare time which he has created, and to keep them happy if at all possible.
Oh, in none of these things is he completely successful. The nations of the world still fight against each other and leave the corpses of their youth on the battlefields of the nations. Powerful struggles within nations and between nations clearly show that he has not solved all the problems of economics. In all his glorious studies in science, he still devotes the greater part of his energy to killing himself and his fellow man with his wonderful inventions. His educational systems come under repeated scrutiny because they fail in certain respects to accomplish his purpose. His songs degenerate into silly ditties of meaningless jazz; his art can only be called art by a stretch of the imaginations; his books and poems are sordid and ugly with all kinds of sinful deviations; through all his efforts to entertain himself and keep himself happy, he is still filled with fear and trouble. His efforts to stop disease and the scourge of sickness, to stay the hand of death are not always as promising as they first appear to be, and he goes to the grave anyway, three score and ten. But on the whole, he feels that he can pat himself on the back and speak of a job well done. Although crimes and delinquency continue, and sin abounds, he has hopes of eventually eradicating these things also out of the pages of history.
YET DEAD IN SIN
Yet in spite of all these achievements the simple fact of Scripture remains that man does nothing good in the sight of God. And if the efforts of man are evaluated through the light of divine revelation, it soon becomes apparent that this is indeed the case. Without minimizing in any respect man’s achievements, he is nevertheless a sinner from beginning to end. He sins in all that he does. His motives are never pure. His actions are always contrary to all that is holy. His deeds are despicable in the sight of God. With all the things which are his and with which he lives in the world, he increases in iniquity. He sets himself against God and against His Christ. He is at war with the Most High and filled with hatred against Christ’s cause. He will have nothing of the truth nor of the purpose of God. He is allied with the devil and pursues the wicked dream of wicked men of all ages to set himself upon the throne of the creation and cast God out. Everything that comes into his hands, he uses to sin more and more. The truth still is and forever shall remain as the awful judgment upon all men: “Prone to hate God and their neighbor!”