Locked Out of Garden

God didn’t leave us trapped in a maze with a hidden door. God became the door.

depositphotos Image ID: 11321001 Copyright: draghicich

Prompted by the new book by Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?, I have highlighted a couple of potential keys to addressing the “problem of evil” emphasized in his book in the article,  The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will.

The Christian response to the age old problem lies in the story of Adam and Eve. Created in God’s own image, they were given a choice but were forbidden from exercising it. Anyone with a modicum of understanding about human nature knows that forbidden fruit is a temptation that is hard to ignore. It should come as no surprise to us (or God) that Adam and Eve gave into the temptation and ate of the fruit.

God surely must have known that they would exercise that forbidden choice! Yet, he banished them from the idyllic “garden” He created for them and cursed the world, subjecting it to difficulty, pain, suffering and death. We are looking for a clue to the question that screams from our guts, “Why?!”

This indeed is the harsh reality in which we live. There can be no denying it. Recognition of this harsh reality is not uniquely Christian. It is a universal truth. The explanation of it is what differs. The atheist might simply say that we all die and “then worms will eat our bodies”. That’s just the way it is. The Hindu might say we suffer because of karma, and we all die, and die again, and again, and again, and again. The Buddhist might say we suffer only because we haven’t reached enlightenment because pain and suffering are just a figment of the unenlightened imagination. All worldviews must contend with the fact that we live in a less than idyllic world.

The Christian says we suffer pain and death because Adam sinned. “And we’ve been attending funerals ever since,” Clay Jones says; and “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching absolutely every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease, and that will be your own death from murder, accident, or disease.” What a harsh sentence!

If the Bible is an accurate reflection of God and of reality, why in the world would God have cursed the ground and subjected His creation to futility?

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that God subjected the world to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption….” (Romans 8:20) This suggests that the choice that led man to corruption and the cursing of the world to futility was part of the plan all along. In this second half of “the story” we try to make some sense of it.

Continue reading “Locked Out of Garden”

Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End

We can have every choice (but eternal life) without God, or we can let go of every other choice to choose God (and gain eternal life).

Chris Frayley On Rock at River Bend

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

These familiar phrases from 1 Corinthians. 15:55 (quoting Hosea 13:14) jumped out at me as I read them again. Of course, I know that God has swallowed up death in victory through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! But, what does that really mean for us?

This statement is the tip of the iceberg, and it occurs to me that we cannot understand without remembering and contemplating “how we got here”. Therefore, we must go back to the beginning. Continue reading “Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End”

An Overview of the Genesis Story

Sometimes we get lost in the forest and miss the trees. Below is a take on Genesis from 30,000 feet as told by some creative folks at www.http://jointhebibleproject.com/  I enjoyed and the fresh look at age old stories put together in an overview. Below is my breakdown. At the end of this article is a link to the entertaining video.

God & the World

God made the world and declared it is good

God made man in God’s image: Adam is the Hebrew word for humanity; and Eve is the Hebrew word for life. Representative of God’s character in the world God made.

God sends them out into the world to be creative, as God was, but he gives them a moral choice about how they do it.

The moral choice is what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all about

God tells them not to eat of it or they will die.

Up to that point God provided and defined what is good (His creation)

God has the knowledge of good and evil and made it attainable for humans (the choice)

The tree represents that choice: will humans accept God’s definition of what is good, or will they define what is good for themselves.

This sets the stage for sin – the desire and act of defining and controlling what is good for me and my tribe, even at the expense of you and your tribe

People are not good at defining good and evil without God – Genesis 3-11

Downward spiral

Adam & Eve can no longer trust each other – they were naked and felt fine about it before, but now they feel shameful after eating the forbidden fruit and hide from God and each other

Cain becomes jealous of Abel and kills him

Lemak accumulates wives, property and sings songs of being more violent than Cain and is proud of it

Things get so bad that God proceeds to wipe out humanity except for Noah and his family

We think of God as angry, but he is sad and grief stricken; to save the world He washes it clean with the flood

But even Noah takes a turn – he plants a vineyard, gets wasted and things get sketchy

Babel ends this portion of Genesis – God knows that men, if unified, will seize the opportunity to seek to become like God and that will be bad

God scatters them so they can not wreak anymore havoc

When humans seize autonomy from God and define good and evil themselves it results in corruption, tragedy and death

Abraham & His Family

Begins God’s mission to rescue and restore humanity

Before the video link, I want to make a few comments. First, it seems elemental to me that God creative Adam and Eve to be creative beings like God (in the image of God), but the link between that and the tree of knowledge of good and evil I find interesting. God gave them a choice to accept what God provided them and defined as good or to eat of the tree and define what is good for themselves. I have not heard things put exactly that way before.

Building on that, the choices that humanity makes are awful. Cain kills Abel. The strong become boastful of violence and domination over others. Even after the flood “cleanses” the world for a fresh start, Noah, himself, stumbles into weirdness. And when humankind repopulates, they become unified in an endeavor to reach the heavens for themselves, which will only allow them to cause more trouble and damage than they would otherwise be able to do; so God divides them by language and scatters them. In doing that, He creates some checks and balances that minimize the trouble they can cause.

The beginning of Genesis is the story of the moral choice that humanity made, to seize control of defining good and evil for themselves, and rejecting God’s definition. It does not go well. We do not do well with the choices we make.

While the video ends here, the next portion of Genesis is summarized as the beginning of God’s rescue mission to save and restore humanity through Abraham and his family. We will have to wait for the summary of the rest of Genesis.

I am certain that the overview can be done in different ways and emphasize different aspects of the Big Picture. I think this overview is compelling. The fundamental choice that we all make is whether we will “do it my way” or submit ourselves to God’s way. Will define good and bad for ourselves or accept how God has defined it?

Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOUV7mWDI34

What is your take? Is this a good overview?

Two Trees in the Garden

Connecting with nature

“In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Gen. 2:10

Sometimes things jump out when I read the Bible. Two days ago, I was reading Genesis, and it struck me:

 There were two trees mentioned in the garden

The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….

and God only told Adam and Eve they could not eat from one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God did not forbid them to eat of the tree of life.

That suggests that they could have eaten of the tree of life without prohibition, and it struck me: What if Adam and Eve had chosen life? Would there have been a fall? Would God have allowed them to remain in the garden with the tree of knowledge after having partaken of the tree of life?

We can only speculate because Genesis tells us Adam and Eve chose knowledge instead of life. They were drawn to the one tree that God forbade them to eat. It dawns on me that the very act of choosing was a sort of an introduction to that knowledge, and I suspect God knew that they would choose it: the one thing He told them they could not have. What is it in us that we are drawn to the things that we cannot have? Why are we drawn to the things we know we should not have, even over the things that we would rather have?

I suppose some people might choose knowledge again, even knowing that life would be forfeited. Even so, one theme of great literature and art over the centuries is a longing for eternal life. The fountain of youth is the coveted grail. Nothing strikes more darkly at the heart than the certainty of death and takes more of toil on the human heart than the loss of a loved one to its clutches.

I am certain that God foresaw and knew the path that His crowning creation would take. We are created in God’s image and for a purpose higher than our own designs. God must have known that Adam and Eve may have chosen (wold choose?) knowledge over life. He gave them that choice, and he must have been prepared to respond to it. In that sense, it seems to me that knowledge was a part of the plan, even if meant that we would be separated from life and separate from God by it.  

Ironic it is that partaking in the knowledge of good and evil would mean loss of fellowship with God and loss of a personal knowledge of God.

It had to be part of God’s plan as, without the ability to choose, and without the knowledge of good and evil, there would be no truly free will, and without free will, no true love. There would be no place for God’s mercy, no reason for Him to extend it. Without the knowledge of good evil and the opportunity to exercise truly free will, people would be one directional beings, not different in kind from every other animal, unable to appreciate God or to love Him fully.

Knowledge, however, could only come with a price. After gaining the knowledge of good and evil, there would need to be additional work done in the hearts of men, work which could not have been done without that knowledge, work that could not have been accomplished if knowledge were combined with eternal life, work that could take root only in the shadow of inevitable death, separation from God and the need for God’s redemptive mercy.

I do not believe that God could have (or would have) allowed the knowledge of good and evil to be gained along with eternal life. Knowledge, alone, puffs up. Indeed, it was the temptation to know what God knows and to be like God that induced Eve to eat. Sin, separation from God, toil, pain and inevitably death remind us that we are not in control, that knowledge, alone, cannot save us from this condition – that we are the creatures and not the Creator.

Knowledge alone does not make us like God. It does not ensure character, heart, mercy, justice, kindness, goodness and ultimately love. Those things must be chosen, and evil must be rejected. The knowledge of good and evil ensures that there is a choice to be made. It cannot be avoided. And in having to make the choice to embrace good, even though the tendency of man is to choose that which is forbidden, is where God meets the heart and does His work.

God placed the trees side by side; He forbade one, but made them both available. God made eternal life available in the Garden, and He makes it available to us still. God put eternity in the hearts of men. (Eccl. 3:11) He gave us the desire for eternal life. God desires that no one perish; and that all come to eternal life. (John 3:16) … but, men must choose. We must choose God, who is good, and His ways over ourselves and our ways. We must choose the merciful redemption of God, embrace the goodness of God and reject our own ways.

In the end, believers will have both knowledge and life, and that life that God gives freely will be given precisely because we choose goodness – because we choose God. The knowledge that was chosen in disobedience to God puts the horrible responsibility on us to choose, and by choosing, to end up with goodness and God for eternity … or  separation from God. It would have been so much simpler and better for us if we had chosen life, instead of knowledge. Instead, it is a matter of life and death.