I will have to explore in depth the new title for my blog over the next several months. While I spent my undergraduate studies in philosophy and my graduate studies in theology and ministry studying every angle and nuance of this Latin phrase, most of my readers have fruitful lives and have never had the time to delve into the nerddom of heavy-duty, industrial-strength philosophical theology.
O Felix Culpa, meaning O Happy Fault/Fall is a somewhat simple argument. In essence, a conceivable world in which there is no presence of evil or sin may not be as good as a conceivable world where there is the presence of sin of evil along with the presence of the incarnation and the atonement. In other words, it is better to suffer and encounter the Savior than to not suffer and never encounter the Savior.
Alvin Plantinga and others have shown that this argument works on the most basic level to exonerate God on the problem of evil. My studies led me to contend that this argument might be even a theodicy (a large claim, to be sure) that resolves the horrendous problem of evil.
Yet, this isn’t a mere hip Latin phrase or complex logical syllogism. It might be the ultimate ‘proof’ to our hearts that the gospel should be embraced.
I was drinking coffee with a college student a few years ago who was also into philosophy and an agnostic. We were talking about the truth claims of Christianity when this student said, “I don’t believe that Christianity is true. I can’t even conceive how to prove it to be true. But, I have to admit that the story of Christianity – God becoming one of us, suffering, and dying – is the best story one could ever tell.”
A couple of years ago while at a sports bar watching college basketball, an agnostic and another Christian were talking with me about Christianity. My Christian friend said, “Even if you don’t think the Christian story is true, you have to admit that there is no better story to be told.” Our agnostic friend was silent, essentially conceding the point.
So, here is the cash value of O Felix Culpa, should we believe that our suffering is part of the greatest story to ever unfold, or is it better to believe that this world only has the horrendous story of mere thorns and thistles?
If we wish to believe that Beauty will have its way and the cosmos is part of the greatest story to be told, then Christianity must be true. There is no greater possible world than one which has the incarnation and the atonement. There is no better story.
Is it a leap of faith? Yes. But it is just as much of a leap to believe that we are living in a tragedy. The gospel is a tragedy which becomes a comedy, or as my good friend Sammy Rhodes says, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”
O happy fault, indeed.