The Bleach in the Aquarium
Vol: 26 Issue: 7 Saturday, July 7, 2018
The first sin was Lucifer’s – one could infer from Scripture that the earth itself was created in response to that sin. Our planet is the only one enclosed with an atmosphere that keeps everything tightly locked inside.
Theologians call it the cosmos diabolicus — the ‘devil’s heaven’ — because Satan and his minions were cast out of heaven and into it after the Rebellion.
Genesis 2:8 says the Garden was planted east of Eden, on the banks of a river which then branched out into four riverheads, one of which is the Euphrates. When Adam sinned in open defiance of God, he was put out of the Garden.
If there is one reason that surpasses all others in the pantheon of reasons why Christianity mustbe true, it is found in the answer to the question, “why is there suffering and death?”
The simplest answer consists of just three words; “Adam and Eve.”
But while the simplest answer might be accurate, it doesn’t satisfy. Ok, Eve was deceived and Adam chose his wife over obedience to God.
The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that Adam was deceived. The serpent deceived Eve. Adam sinned with his eyes wide open. Then when he was caught, he blamed God for giving him the woman in the first place.
“And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:12)
Eve was deceived – not much of an excuse. (But it was better than Adam’s.)
It was a tough call on God’s part. He set the bar for disobedience rather high:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
Despite eating from the tree, Adam and Eve didn’t suddenly drop over dead. Genesis 2:17 in the original language reads, “dying thou shalt surely die.”
The penalty was not instant death, it was the imposition of death. Until the Fall, death had not entered into the world. The Bible does not say how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden after Creation.
It says only that the Fall took place at some time after the Seventh Day. It could have been the Eighth Day, or it could have been years, decades, centuries or millennia.
Until the Fall, the law of entropy was suspended as far as Adam was concerned. It is the law of entropy that says that with the passage of time, all things age, decay, collapse and die.
That is what the entry of sin into the world signifies. The imposition of natural law — like the one that says for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction.
In our universe, life cannot exist apart from death – a plant is alive; a rock is not. The definition of life is “that which can die.”
That is how the universe – and everything in it — is constructed. A battery has two poles – one positive and one negative. Both are necessary for there to be power.
Whether or not that power is positive or negative depends on the perspective of those affected by that power. Apart from the perspective of human beings, any action or reaction is neutral.
If the earth were to suddenly break free from its orbit and crash into the sun, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?
Wouldn’t that call depend on the existence of people? If there were no people to either be affected or serve as eyewitnesses, what difference could it make?
Imagine an empty aquarium. It is filled with crystal clear water at precisely the right temperature. The pump is turned on, the aquarium decorated with festive colored rocks, fake sea plants, etc.
(It’s your imaginary aquarium, make it as nice as you want – but empty.)
Since it is empty, would it matter in any discernible way if somebody added a cup of bleach? The aquarium would be clean and sterile – a good thing – if you were going to drink it.
But from the perspective of a fish about to be dropped into it, not so good, since the second it hits the water, “dying, it shalt surely die.”
Sin is the cup of bleach in the aquarium.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
In commemoration of Easter, Pope Benedict broke with tradition and took selected questions from the public, one of which cited the destruction of Japan and asking why God allows such suffering?
The Pope’s answer was accurate as far as it went:
“. . . he too wondered why so many innocent people suffer, but that she should take heart in knowing that Jesus had suffered too.”
The answer seemed so clichéd and unsatisfactory that it kept rattling around in my head all through Easter weekend. It being Easter weekend, the Passion and the Cross was heavy on my mind, but like most Christians, my focus was on the Resurrection and all that it means.
But I thought about those people in Japan who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and the horror of the last minutes of their lives as they were swept out to sea and the terror with which their lives came to an end.
And of the suffering of those that survived the tsunami only to suffer the incredible cold, deprivation and hardship that followed. The thought triggered more meditation on suffering and death and the wages of sin.
Somehow, all this random meditation came together and hit me between the eyes with a profound thump.
The wages of sin is death. That seems simple enough. Our personal sin earns eternal death in the form of separation from God for eternity in the place prepared for Satan and his angels.
But death in general is the wages earned by sin in general. Not necessarily yours or mine, but corporately.
Yours, mine, the oil companies’, Obama’s, the owner of your local landfill, the mailman’s, Moammar Ghadaffi’s, and everybody else’s — all because of the bleach in the aquarium.
If the wages of sin is death, then Jesus could have paid the penalty due for the sins of mankindwithout the beatings, the Crown of Thorns, the scourging, the bearing of the Cross, His Crucifixion and His six hours of final agony impaled by the nails.
A life of perfect obedience to God that ended with His unjust conviction and a quick and simple execution would have seemingly satisfied the demands of justice. Why did He have to suffer so much?
Because of the wages of sin. The wages of sin demand that we all die. That seems fair.
But some sinners die peacefully in their sleep – others in terror; swept out to sea, crushed under a building, buried in a mine – the tsunami swept away the righteous and unrighteous alike.
Jesus satisfied the wages of sin with His death – and with the manner of His death. So that nobody could logically argue, “Why me, Lord?” to the One standing there with the nail prints in His Hands.
What an awesome Savior! How could it not be true?