Plantinga spends a good portion of chapter 3 discussing corruption and how it acts as an amplifier of sin but is not itself a sin. Sin is an act of disobedience to God which destroys the intended shalom of His creation. Corruption is the cycle of sin throughout generations and around the world.
In comparing Plantinga’s description of shalom in chapter 2 to the world we live in and its description in the opening pages of chapter 3 it is obvious that the two descriptions are drastically different. This is the result of the fall, or the original of Adam and Eve in the garden, followed by Cain’s murder of his brother Able, and the successive acts of disobedience committed by all humankind. Plantinga says that corruption has advanced the original sin so that humans are in a state of total depravity. This corruption has two parts. First we use God’s gifts for purposes that He did not intend. Second, we include “unredeemed elements” in the actions that should bring God glory. According to Plantinga “we have kept on perverting and polluting God’s gifts.” (56)
Sin has become prevalent in our culture and is carried from one generation to another. “Human character forms culture, but culture also forms human character. And the formation runs not only across regions and peoples but also along generations.” We are trapped in a circular flow that passes sin and its consequences from generation to generation. The Bible says that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons.
However, we are still able to experience goodness because of God’s common grace. Plantinga defines common grace as “the goodness of God shown to all, regardless of faith, consisting in natural blessings, restraint of corruption, seeds of religion and political order, and a host of civilizing and humanizing impulses, patterns, and traditions.” In other words, God gives blessings to Christians and non-Christians alike. These blessings may include intelligence, wealth, community, good health, etc. We all need this grace because the depravity of our sin is in all of us.
It is important to remember that we are not the rope in a tug of war between God and Satan. The evil that surrounds us is also within us and for this reason we can only be rid of the destruction of sin through the grace of God. In the end of the chapter Plantinga asks where sin originated. I do not think he ever provides a substantial answer. Instead he deflects the question to explain how sin is “not only personal but also interpersonal and even suprapersonal. That is, sin is more than the sum of what sinners do. Sin acquires the form of a spirit…” He goes on to say “it’s no disgrace to have more questions than answers here. It’s not even surprising. There is much we don’t know about the world and much we don’t know about the meaning of Scripture.”
There is much our finite human minds cannot understand. When I think about where sin originated I cannot come up with a satisfying answer. Instead I remember two important things: There is a God, and I am not Him.