Posted tagged ‘Garden of Eden’

Back to an Early Church View of Genesis

September 7, 2018


I have much enjoyed reading Joel Edmund Anderson’s blog, resurrecting orthodoxy. So much that I am reblogging his latest post which is part of a walk through Genesis: Making Sense of Genesis 3 (Part 1): The Big Picture, Nakedness, and Two Trees. Knowing history allows us to avoid the mistakes of those who came before us, but not knowing history makes it likely that we will repeat those mistakes.

So it seems that some have made the mistake in this modern day and age of reading Genesis too literally. Just saying that triggers a slight shudder as I can imagine someone taking umbrage with the suggestion that we shouldn’t take the Bible literally. I maintain that we should take the Bible seriously, which means that we should let the Bible inform us when we should read it literally, when we should read it figuratively, and when it has both literal and figurative meanings. (Should we take the Bible Literally? Or Seriously?)

Anderson reminds us that this is how some of the most influential early church fathers viewed Scripture. For authority, he cites all the way back to Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp who was a direct disciple of John – John, the disciple of Jesus and writer of the Gospel of John, the epistles of John and Revelations. He is just two spiritual generations removed from John, who sat at the feet of Jesus and learned from Him face to face.

I realize that this isn’t the simple formula for Bible interpretation that a person might want. But, there is nothing simple about the universe we live in, reality or (most of all) God. His ways are higher than our ways. We shouldn’t lean on our own understanding. Jesus left the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth, and Jesus said we must learn to worship God in spirit and truth.

This is no New Age spiritualism or secret Gnostic knowledge. We are talking about the Living God who spoke to Abraham and David and took on human form in the body of Jesus, lived obediently to His own purpose as a man to the point of dying on a cross for our sins and rising from the dead in that same body to give us hope. This is the uncreated Word of God who was with God in the beginning, and was God, and through whom all that was created was made – the seen from the unseen.

Anderson says in his latest article:

“Genesis 3 was not claiming that God had created a ‘perfect’ world, because God alone is perfect. In fact, Irenaeus called the teaching that Adam and Eve were originally ‘perfect’ a gnostic heresy. Irenaeus was emphatic: God didn’t create Adam and Eve as ‘perfect’ beings.”

God called the world He made “good” (not perfect). It was good for His intended purpose, and it still is. He knew humanity would fall and fail. That was inevitable because we are not perfect; we are not God. God knew we would fail because He can see the end from the beginning, and everything in between. When He hit the “start” button on the creation, He saw how His purpose would unfold before the foundations of the earth. And, He saw that it was good.

Through our experience we learn good and evil, and the value of embracing good and rejecting evil. In this way, our experience is intended to lead us to God who alone is perfect. Through our experience, we learn to rely not on ourselves, but on God. Through our experience we learn to embrace God and His purpose. As we yield ourselves to Him, God works in us what we could never do in ourselves – perfecting us in Him.

We make a critical mistake when we think that Adam and Eve and Eden were perfect. Only God is perfect.

I’ve heard people say that there was no pain or death before the fall. Why, then, does God tell Eve that her pain in childbirth will increase (multiply)? (“To the woman He said: “I will sharply increase your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)(Berean Study Bible))

We need to be careful not to let the agendas and theological constructs of others inform us rather than the Word, itself. The Word of God is living and active, sharper than a double edged sword, and able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12-13) We need to let God’s Word inform us through the guidance of His Holy Spirit. It isn’t a theology or a secret formula. It’s the Word of the Living God, the Bread of Life. It is God-breathed and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The idea that Genesis should be taken absolutely literally and historically is more of a modern construct than a biblical one. (See Is Young-Earth Creationism Another Gospel?) That doesn’t mean Scripture isn’t God-breathed and we shouldn’t take it seriously. From the beginning the followers of Jesus read Scripture as the word of God. They took it so seriously they were willing to die for it – not for it alone, but for the God it revealed. And though they clung to the Scripture, for in it was revealed the Messiah, Jesus, who they followed, they didn’t read Genesis as literal, historical record.

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Postscript:

Irenaeus was born in 130 AD, just a generation after the John the apostle died, in Smyrna (now Turkey) to a Christian family. He stood against heresy, being one of the first theologians to use apostolic succession to protect the integrity of the Gospel. His close connection to Jesus, Himself, through Polycarp who was mentored by John the apostle, was his authority. “Irenaeus’ point when refuting the Gnostics was that all of the Apostolic churches had preserved the same traditions and teachings in many independent streams. It was the unanimous agreement between these many independent streams of transmission that proved the orthodox Faith, current in those churches, to be true.” Irenaeus is credited with arguing that all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), and only those four Gospels, were Scriptural. (See Wikipedia)

He preached the rule of faith, one of the earliest church creeds, as a standard for orthodoxy:

…this faith: in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race…

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Locked Out of Garden

October 28, 2017

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.

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The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will

October 28, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 135430388 Copyright: KrisCole

I am reading a book by Clay Jones called Why Does God Allow Evil? I highly recommend it. The “problem of evil” is one of the more challenging questions that we face in life, and difficulties struggling with that question have led many people to abandon or refuse to embrace faith in God.

Why does God allow pain and suffering? If God is good, how can He allow people to suffer? Why doesn’t God stop evil? If God exists, why does He allow evil to exist? These are just some of the variations of the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is a challenge for every worldview. Responses include that there is no God, and that’s just the way it is (a naturalistic world view); evil is just an illusion of unenlightened souls (a Buddhist or eastern view); evil is result of bad karma (Hindu); or evil is the result of rebellsion against God – sin (Christian). We all struggle with the conviction that things simply aren’t the way they ought to be. That Utopian disconnect urges us to ask, “Why not?”

I think, personally, that the Christian worldview makes the most sense of this question. It begins with the story of God and Adam and Eve. Whether the story is allegorical or historical, the answer involves God’s purpose in creating man, man’s finite, corruptible character (compared to God’s infinite, pure character) and a plan to develop this corruptible creature (man) who is created in God’s own image into a pure, loving relationship with God that is defined by God’s pure character, and not the corruptible nature of man.

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The Tree of Life

March 4, 2016

Shagbark Hickory


The tree of life was there in the garden. It was available to us until God “cast us out of the garden” and closed us off from it, so the story goes. Why?

I think there is intention to the fact that He let us know that the tree of life was there and we could eat of it. Conceivably, we could have chosen to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, instead of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Notice that it was not a “tree of knowledge” but a tree of the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.)

I began thinking about these things one day as I was contemplating the slow unwinding of my own body. (more…)

Revisiting Life and Death: The Gospel from Beginning to End

July 10, 2015

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. (more…)

Two Trees in the Garden

January 30, 2014

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.

 


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