A funny (and not so funny) aspect of life is that you’ll find that stereotypes are often times rooted in at least a bit of truth. Humans have long dealt in stereotypes. Herodotus would decry the inherent flaws of the Persians, juxtaposed to the Greeks. Throughout most pre-modern works, groups of people are referred to as having intrinsic characteristics to them. This piece isn’t to defend these notions. Only to say that when we see generalities they should not be dismissed in favor of the exception.
Nowhere is this more true than when the topic of sin comes in. The famous verse goes that “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The claim seems indispensable and indisputable. Indispensable in that that is how we understand the world around us. Both Jocko Willink and Jordan Peterson have stated that they came to believe in an ultimate good by seeing ultimate evil. It is possible, tragically, to know what true Hell is because we can all too easily make it happen.
However, this author would contend that we cannot comprehend what true Heaven, that is the absence of sin, looks like. Moses’ request of God in Exodus that he be allowed to see God in all His glory, was partially denied, with Moses only being allowed a passing glimpse of God. I take see here to mean more accurately to mean to understand. To see in a real sense is to know, or at least a very big part of it. Men are visual after all. Perhaps this is why we love the Cross so much. The reason why Moses could not fully view God is stated clearly. He’d die.
If we are to take Hell to be the absence of God and therefore Heaven to be the inverse, then we are left with the fact that the carnal plane of existence is permeated with the two. Humans, and even heavenly bodies from Angels to the Son of God, can readily descend into Hell, but it is only the living embodiment of the Good, the Logos, of love who can rise back out of it. And for us, we require the cleansing mercy of God to be able to rise, though not without sacrifice.
The point of this (probably too long) diatribe, is that man is sinful. This is a given. G.K Chesterton opined cleverly, “The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.” (G.K Chesterton Orthodoxy, 17) Within this quotation is the question of why must we all be dirty?
The Apostle Paul has the best answer to this (insert “you don’t say” meme here). In Romans, Paul states that Adam, the first man, was the archetype of humanity. Andrew Klavan and his son Spencer (no relation) did a rather excellent segment on this on May 27th. The main argument is that we all have this Original Sin because we all would have done the same in Adam’s shoes.
We cannot declare that we would not have eaten the fruit when we in fact would have. We cannot declare that we would have fought against slavery when we likely would have been some of the worst masters. We cannot say we would have hidden the Jews when we probably would have been a camp guard. This is not to be entirely down on all of us. There are plenty of wonderful things that people do, but inevitably people stumble and fall. It’s in our nature. And it’s something that must be fought.