Thursday, May 27, 2004

Genesis 3:1-7

I appreciate the few comments I've received. Particularly, this week, from Laura, who wrote that "It is the truths that can be found in it that are important rather than whether or not it actually happened like that..."

Though this is the first time I have really read the Bible, carefully, from the beginning to the end, I have read most of the Bible several times, and when I noticed something that sounded "off", I shrugged it off with this viewpoint.

Though I used to find that view satisfactory, the problem I now find with that view is twofold. First, it does not at all help me distinguish between parts of scripture that are literal and important and parts that are figurative, literary and merely contributing to the "big picture." If the details of one book can be disregarded in favor of the big picture, then the same might hold true for the details of parts that many people take very seriously, things like the importance of circumcision, baptism, and all of the other things that people have fought wars over because of the dictates of the Bible.

The second problem is that these details are really important to a lot of people. You know the type: "The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it." Well, sure, the Bible seems to say it. But there are sometimes reasons not to believe it, at least not literally. So it is not settled. These people are part of the reason I'm having this struggle.

When I look at a geology book, and someone tells me that the mid-Atlantic ridge can only be 6,000 years old because the Bible tells us so, it causes me some trouble. And so I resolve my cognitive dissonance by deciding that the story is not meant to be taken literally. It is just an old story, passed on by naive ancient peoples, and it is no more a literal story of creation than the tale of Nyame, the great African sky god, who sneezed and created the spirit people, who used clay to make the ancestors of the ancient tribes of Africa. This, of course, means that it is not likely to actually be the Word of God.

So I turn to chapter three of Genesis and I am back to having to reclaim this old viewpoint just to have the resolve to go on. There are at least four or five really crucial details in Genesis 3 that just torment me. I'll discuss them one at a time.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
2And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, "You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die."
4Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.
5For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
I never understood why this was wrong in the first place. Is it not good to understand the difference between good and evil? And if they did not, before eating of the fruit, understand the difference, than what was wrong with eating the fruit that God told them not to eat? It was neither good nor evil. It was unworthy of punishment for a person who knows not such a difference.

More importantly, I cannot accept this as literal truth. Aside from the speaking animal, a snake no less, I see this, if taken literally, as all the proof I would need to feel free to disregard everything else I read in this journey.

Remember Genesis 2:17? God warns Adam "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." That is a pretty serious threat. And in chapter three, the serpent tempts Eve into defying God by eating the fruit. And then Adam eats some, too.

Without doubt, when they eat the fruit, bad things happen. But one thing does not. They do not die in the day they eat of it. To the contrary, they live longer lives than any of us ever will. The threat is not carried out.

In the New Testament, when we are told that without Jesus, we will not have eternal life, what is our comeback when the cynic challenges us with this retort: "Yeah, right, just like how Adam died the day he ate the forbidden fruit."

Why ever obey God's commands at all? Why heed His empty threats?

1 Comments:

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July 23, 2006 at 6:32 PM  

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