Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck (pt. 1 of 2)

I have been "reading" East of Eden on my commute to and from work lately.  I am not even halfway through (on disc 10 of 25), but I thought I would take the time to post on a few quotes from the book that have stood out to me thus far.

When a child first catches adults out—when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone….And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”


“It doesn’t matter that Cathy was what I have called a monster. Perhaps we can’t understand Cathy, but on the other hand we are capable of many things in all directions, of great virtues and great sins. And who in his mind has not probed the black water?

Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and growstrong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fenceand swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in ourhidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.”

It is interesting how controversial the doctrine of total depravity can be among believers debating the extent to which we are capable or incapable of pleasing God and what ultimately lies at and in the heart of man.  It is also interesting how a man like Steinbeck could put his finger on the situation and almost mirror the words of Oswald Chambers when he states in My Utmost for His Highest the following: 

"If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility."

Steinbeck echoes Chambers' words in pointing us to who we are in possibility, who we are in our cores: the hidden, secret self whose desires go unfulfilled and un-actualized whether from fear of man, inability, or fear of God.  They are as much a part of us spiritually as our hearts are physically. 

There is a moment, as Steinbeck points out, in a child's life where he or she realizes the fallen nature of those to whom admiration and on whom what could be hinted to as worship has been given.  There is an outward realization that people, even those closest and held most dear to you, are capable of evil.  It is first realized in our observation of others and, if the Spirit allows by grace, recognized inwardly as observed even in ourselves.

It is a dreadful and despairing realization.  We have dark wells of deep evil within us and so do others.  Without God's hand of grace, imagine how wicked we all could become.  How far could it go?  How far east of Eden could be move?

It is a grace of God for a man to realize this about himself and others.  It is a mercy of God to give that same man the humility and desire to reach out in faith to Christ to be for him his perfection and forgiveness; to overcome the monstrosities of mans’ design and decisions. 

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