Al Wolters' Creation Regained traces out the themes of Creation, Fall and Redemption, and how they shape our understanding of everything. Having looked at Creation in Chapter 2 (1, 2), we're now onto Chapter 3, on the Fall.
The effects of sin touch all of creation; no created thing is in principle untouched by the corrosive effects of the fall. Whether we look at societal structures such as the state or family, or cultural pursuits such as art or technology, or bodily functions such as sexuality or eating, or anything at all within the wide scope of creation, we discover that the good handiwork of God has been drawn into the sphere of human mutiny against God (pp.54f).
That is not to say that God's good creation has somehow ceased to exist, and that everything is now totally evil. On the contrary, the good creation is still there in its entirety, but has been distorted and disfigured by sin. So we could distinguish between structure—the basic nature of things (the "order of creation" in Calvin's language, apparently)—and direction—whether those things are directed towards God or away from God (the "order of sin and redemption").
This double direction applies not only to individual human beings but also to such cultural phenomena as technology, art, and scholarship, to such societal institutions as labor unions, schools, and corporations, and to such human functions as emotionality, sexuality, and rationality. To the degree that these realities fail to live up to God's creational design for them, they are misdirected, abnormal, distorted. To the degree that they still conform to God's design, they are in the grip of a countervailing force that curbs or counteracts the distortion. Direction therefore always involves two tendencies moving either for or against God (p.59).
How else might we view the fall, or answer the question of what is wrong in the world?
The great danger is always to single out some aspect or phenomenon of God's good creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of human apostasy, as the villain in the drama of human life. ... The result is that something in the good creation is declared evil. We might call this tendency "Gnosticism" ... (p.61).
This Gnostic tendency shows up in Christian thinking when we read verses against "the world" as speaking against some parts of creation (structure), rather than as speaking against the corruption that has infected the whole of creation (direction).
Christians of virtually every persuasion have tended to understand "world" to refer to a delimited area of the created order, an area that is usually called "worldly" or "secular" ... , which included such fields as art, politics, scholarship (excluding theology), journalism, sports, business, and so on (p.64).
But once we see that "worldly" refers to the orientation of the whole of creation, rather than to some "secular" realm of creation, that gives us hope for the whole of creation to be open to redemption, and not just some "sacred" realm of creation (human souls and their spiritual relationship with God, for example).
Evil is not inherent in the human condition: there once was a completely good creation and there will be again; hence, the restoration of creation is not impossible. Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of (p.62).
Consequently, every area of the created world cries out for redemption and the coming of the kingdom of God (p.68).
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