Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dear sin, you are hideous

I was struck while reading Perelandra (Book 2 in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy) at the ugliness of sin and convicted by my lack of deep hatred for it. In the book the main character, Dr. Ransom, has been taken to a planet that is just being created. This new planet has an equivalent Adam and Eve and sin has not yet infected this new creation. Everything is new, pure, beautiful, peaceful, perfect, and full of life. Ransom spends a few days on this planet, basking in the beauty of God's unspoiled work, until evil is introduced. When Ransom stumbles across the first effects of this evil he is stunned by something that we would not think twice about here on sin-stained earth. But this decay in a world of pure life brought out the reality of the stark contrast between death and life. Here is how Lewis communicates it.

At first he (Dr. Ransom) thought it was a creature of more fantastic shape than he had yet seen on Perelandra. Its shape and was not only fantastic but hideous. Then he dropped on one knee to examine it. Finally he touched it, with reluctance. A moment later he drew back his hands like a man who had touched a snake.
It was a damaged animal. It was, or had been, one of the brightly coloured frogs. But some accident had happened to it. The whole back had been ripped open in a sort of V-shaped gash, the point of the V being a little behind the head. Something had torn a widening wound backward -- as we do in opening an envelope -- along the trunk and pulled it out so far behind the animal that the hoppers or hind legs had been almost torn off with it. They were so damaged that the frog could not leap. On earth it would have been merely a nasty sight, but up to this moment Ransom had as yet seen nothing dead or spoiled in Perelandra, and it was like a blow in the face. It was like the first spasm of well-remembered pain warning a man who had thought he was cured that his family have deceived him and he is dying after all. It was like the first lie from the mouth of a friend on whose truth one was willing to stake a thousand pounds. It was irrevocable. The milk-warm wind blowing over the golden sea, the blues and silvers and greens of the floating garden, the sky itself -- all these had become, in one instant, merely the illuminated margin of a book whose text was the struggling little horror at his feet, and he himself, in that same instant, had passed into a state of emotion which he could neither control nor understand. He told himself that a creature of that kind probably had very little sensation. But it did not much mend matters. It was not merely pity for pain that had suddenly changed the rhythm of his heart-beats. The thing was an intolerable obscenity which afficted him with shame. It would have been better, or so he thought at that moment, for the whole universe never to have existed than for this one thing to have happened. (108-109)

I want to have this kind of repulsion to sin and its effects. I want to see the ugliness of Satan as exposed in the piercing and truthful rays of God's glory. I want to curse the father of lies and be sickened at the horribleness of sin every time I drive by roadkill or am selfish or watch a dear friend die of cancer or see a people group systematically oppressed. I want to praise God that even His sin perverted-creation can still have a shadow of beauty that goes beyond any synthetic imitation we could make. I want to see and feel sin and its effects from God's perspective, not my own desensitized, complacent position. And I can because Christ, through His being twisted, tortured, torn and terminated has faced sin and it's rotten Father and defeated them for and throughout eternity.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Ro 5:12-19)

But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
(Heb 9:26)

by His grace
for His glory


Tim Costine said...

you know, I read the first one this summer, and now you are the third person to say something about reading the rest. I wasn't going to read them, but now I guess I have.

jrf said...

Did you not like the last one? Perelandra is a lot more dialogue and philosophy than Out of the Silent Planet. So far I like it better though.