Once when I was very small, I was struck by what seemed to me the unfair distribution of punishments. Did everyone of us really have to pay for the folly of Adam and Eve? I asked my father how we know that we inherited their sin: Since I didn’t eat that apple, why should I have to pay for it? What did it have to do with me? He answered that I know I have inherited original sin because I sin. I was forced to agree with him. It was true, I could have done other than give in last time I did something wrong… I marveled at the actuality of our own falls and failings and the actual possibility of not sinning, not failing. We can choose to do the right thing. So, sinning became to my mind a little less haphazard. This fascination with our free will remains with me today. The human situation and fate is undoubtedly bound up with our falls. They reflect within time the first mistake. But accepting the truth of this reveals were we can have hope. As soon as Adam and Eve failed, God promised a return and a salvation, and central in this promise is the Woman. Anyone with an eye to the feminine influence on history should observe and note that! God chose to remake the world with the help of a mother.
Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; wheras Mary, by her obedience, undid it. (St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Martyr, died in 202 AD)
When I wrote After the Fall, a religious–and very Marian–novel set in Sweden, I first gave it the title “A Catholic Priest”. Once I decided for the title After the Fall I realized that some people associate it exclusively with the fall of some particular person, and not with the first fall of our first parents. In my mind these two are not separate but intimately linked together. I hold that unless we always see our sins and failings intimately bound to the original fall of our first parents, perverted fascination with our own faults and consequent subsequent falls are the result, hence such trashy literature out there to the utter admiration of so many, taking us round in a circle of sins and falls and temptations! There is a strong force compelling us to “enjoy” this form of literature, and even go so far as to judge and censure all literature based on its quantitatively content of sins and falls.
There is a better option! God wasted no time to show it to us. He didn’t wait to see how Adam and Eve felt after they had failed in loving and trusting Him; He didn’t let them remain in their sin. He asked them why they were hiding from him; He sought them out. This is our merciful God!
In the words of G. K. Chesterton:
The Fall is a view of life. It is not only the only enlightening, but the only encouraging view of life. It holds, as against the only real alternative philosophies, those of the Buddhist or the Pessimist or the Promethean, that we have misused a good world, and not merely been entrapped into a bad one. It refers evil back to the wrong use of the will, and thus declares that it can eventually be righted by the right use of the will. Every other creed except that one is some form of surrender to fate. (Quoted in Firmly I believe and Truly, the Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England, edited by John Saward, John Morrill, and Michael Tomko.)
It is this hope and salvation that gives us the possibility, as Christian writers, to follow unabashedly a linear storyline, without the necessity of justifying our writing by remaining in a wheel of life.