Editor’s note: This excerpt from The God of All Comfort provides a brief but fascinating reflection on human perception before the fall. It appears in the earlier part of the book, where the author is contrasting the beauty of perfection with the deformities of sin and horror. You can preview the first three chapters free with a subscription or trial to Faithlife Connect.
By Scott Harrower
Ideally, a certain kind of perspective on the world follows from being a person made in the image of God. In contrast to developing a sense of self in light of our own imaginings—as in Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am”—humans can affirm “I am loved, therefore I am” in light of God and his goodness toward people.
This understanding of the human self provided a perspective on the world for Adam and Eve. Because the human individual is made in love, he or she is whole. The individual’s integrity as a body and thinking soul means they are able to genuinely perceive whatever appeared to them as it truly was. Humans before the fall were realists. In their perfect state, they did not misunderstand the world, nor were they fundamentally skeptical about perceiving it in a successful manner. The truth and fullness of perception available to people in the garden of Eden was reinforced by interactions with other personal beings, including God and at least one other person.
Perception and “being in the world” are best when they are engaged in “we” relationships with other persons, because the one thing we cannot perceive fully is ourselves. We need other people to complete our perception of ourselves. Hence, perception in this context includes a unity of the subjective and objective, intrinsic and extrinsic, individual and corporate. Just as God’s life includes shared perspective and joint attention, so does human sense-making, by which a person develops values, concerns, and cares in order to survive and mature. In the state of shalom, human persons are healthily “interlocked” as this communication takes place with one another. This interlocked communication is so strong that it even completes and shapes the internal communication within a person.