I’m sure many of you are familiar with the concept of an original perfection. The story goes something like this: When God first created all that is, it was perfect, because God is perfect. There was no suffering, no pain, no disease and no death. God created a paradise in which mankind could live in harmony with nature and one another. But this idyllic state was short-lived. Adam and Eve messed up and we lost that original perfection.
These ideas are obviously dependent on a very specific way of interpreting the first three chapters of Genesis. But before we look at how we got to this way of interpreting the story (and some very interesting alternative interpretations), let’s first explore the implications of this idea.
If there once was a perfect world and a perfect humanity, but we are presently faced with a world that is lesser and a humanity that is fallen then it is easy to develop a nostalgic longing for that original utopia. Consequently, some strains of theology still long to recover that original perfection, that faultless design of what life is supposed to be. Truth is sought in an imagined unspoiled beginning.
When we construct our own stories in the context of this idea of a lost perfection, then it becomes so easy to miss the beauty and value of the present. The meta-narrative of the fall by implication means that our current world is less than it was supposed to be… that you are less than what was originally planned. This nostalgic longing for an imagined paradise goes hand in hand with a sense of lack regarding the here and now.
Theologically, the idea that everything was complete in the beginning has many implications. For example, the whole idea of salvation becomes a conquest to recover this origin. The message and mission of Jesus then become focussed and reduced to redeeming this original design. And although the world might still be fallen at least you can individually discover the perfect design of your own being, and find salvation/satisfaction in that.
There is very little room for ongoing participation in creation if creation is seen as a past event. If there was a perfect blueprint of your design, and your only contribution was to discover that blueprint and life accordingly, then you have no creative contribution to make to your design! You can only discover who you are, you cannot participate in the creative process of becoming. The future becomes irrelevant, for the most it can contain is a repetition of that original perfection. Nothing is truly new. And so this philosophy remains stuck in a nostalgic attachment to the original – it has nothing more to offer, nothing new, no future.
If the ultimate truth is found in an imagined origin and the future has nothing more meaningful or valuable to offer, it is very easy to see how the idea of an eternal present untouched by time can develop. For once we have recovered this complete and perfect original design, nothing can add to it. All that remains is to appreciate this completeness uninterrupted by time and its change. But we will give specific attention to that in another video/essay. For now I simply want to draw your attention to the connection.
There are beautiful things that can and should be said about our beginning in God’s desire. We will get there. But for now our focus is on the concept of an initial perfect creation.
I want to take you on the journey that transformed my understanding of the origin stories. As I mentioned in the introduction, we aren’t capable of easily changing our minds about ideas that have been so deeply embedded in our consciousness. There are many factors over many years that contributed to these transformations, and I hope to summarize them in 3 or 4 concise points in the upcoming articles/videos.