One of the principal ideas, if not the principal idea, of Barrs' book is expressed in the following quotes:
We turn now from our reflections about the nature of the arts to consider an issue that I think will help us understand the universal appeal of art: its echoes of the truth about the human condition (67).
All over the world there is a sense that our present life in this world is one of having lost our way from our original dwelling place, a place that was better and more beautiful than the place in which we now live.
All over the world there is the knowledge that our present condition is one of alienation and rebellion, that we are not all we should be, that there is brokenness and tragedy in all of human life.
All over the world there is a longing for this brokenness to be set right, and there is the hope for a redeemer. Some of these elements of the biblical story are present in almost every nation's story about the past (75)
We might even say that all great literature addresses these issues of creation, fall, and redemption because this is the human condition, and there appears to be a racial memory of these things, or perhaps what Jung called "a collective unconsciousness" that recalls these deep longings and shady recollections of the true story of the origin, dilemma, and hope for our race (79).What Barrs is suggesting here is that literature, specifically great literature, will contain shadowy, and sometime solid, elements of the true revelation that God has given us. God's gracious outpouring of general revelation as seen by all peoples in can be found in creation, humanity, providence, and God's sovereignty. But Barrs suggests that this general revelation can also be discerned in religion, myths, and legends; and its these in particular that he calls Echoes of Eden. He writes,
This fifth means of God's revelation of himself is the pool of memories within the human race of the truth about our condition: what I am calling here "echoes of Eden." It seems among every people on the face of the earth there is a recollection of the original good creation; there is awareness that the world we now live in is broken and fallen, and there is a recall of the promise and hope of the restoration of what is good. This true knowledge exists sometimes in stronger form, sometimes in weaker, but is always present (74)Barrs finishes the chapter with an imperative:
Christians today need to be prepared to utilize these echoes of Eden wherever they are found, just as did the apostles Paul and John and the Old Testament prophets. The biblical authors used these echoes because pagan religions did indeed contain memories of the true story of our fall into sin and sorrow, our present plight under the powers of darkness, and the hope for a redeemer (84).In my next post, I'll indicate how Barrs demonstrates that John the apostle used an echo of Eden in the book of Revelation. Then, I'll attempt to explain one of these echoes as it appears in a wonderful novel by Cormac McCarthy; The Road.