Christianity 201

July 9, 2018

The Doctrine of the Fall

We’re featuring a new resource today, Life Walk With Marlene. She writes,

This blog is about my experiences, thoughts and feelings on my journey called living the Blessed life. It is about the ups and downs along the way. The Blessed life is about knowing the Author of life. God alone shows the Way to living the good life that He intended for His creatures since the beginning of time. Travel with me and let us discover together the way to a truly happy life.

Click the title below to read this one at source.

The Fall of Man

Fall: The Semblance of Man to God, Knowing Good and Evil

For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)[1]

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever. (Genesis 3:22)[2]

Man was created in the likeness of God to have a relationship with Him, to be His representative in creation. Why then was he faulted for becoming like God – knowing good and evil? Is this “likeness” similar to what God first intended it to be? Is it not a part of the inherent character of God to discern good from evil?

I believe it is not for “knowing” per se that man was faulted. Rather, it was his act of disobedience to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Previously, God instructed Adam

Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but 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. (Genesis 2:16-17)[3]

Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into “shame.” They became aware of their nakedness and covered their bodies with fig leaves. Their eyes were opened. They knew guilt and hid themselves when God came looking for them.

Knowing good and evil brings forth shame and guilt. A baby who knows neither right nor wrong feels not shame or guilt. In the previous section, conscience was mentioned as part of the character of God (His image and likeness). Conscience is linked to knowing good and evil. Man became aware of good and evil because he disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The shame in their newly awakened consciousness of their own nakedness speaks to a deeper shame of their own sinful state. Adam’s fear and hiding “because I was naked” (v.10) was a confused cover for a fear and conviction of sin.[4]

The second reason for man being found guilty for knowing good and evil like God is found in the context of the serpent tempting Eve. Genesis 3:4-5 recounts

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.[5]

The serpent deceived Eve by pointing out how God lied when He warned Adam that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would lead to death. The serpent also implied that God did not want man to be like Him knowing good and evil; God did not want to share this “power” of discernment, which belongs to Him alone. Essentially, the serpent was convincing the woman to be “like God” – on the same level as God in the context of pride and power, at the expense of disobeying God’s command. The image of God in man, originally to be man’s glory as he “reflects” God’s glory, is “marred” because man seeks to be like God, thereby, “replacing” God.

What about Genesis 3:22? God seems to be saying that knowing good and evil, like Him (in the plural sense), is “not good” for man. What does “knowing” in this context mean?

The Hebrew term for “knowing” in this verse (verse 5, also) is not unique to this passage or chapter; it’s the same word “yada” used elsewhere, some 960 times in the Hebrew scriptures.[6]

Yada” can mean to learn, to perceive, to discern, to distinguish, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider, to be acquainted with, and other fairly ordinary definitions of the word listed in

How did Adam and Eve get to know evil when all God has created since day one is good? They knew good because it was all that they “experienced” before their disobedience. Adam knew of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He was told “not” to eat from it for he will surely die if he did. (Gen. 2:16-17)[7] Adam may have inferred the existence of “evil” as 1) something tantamount to deviation from God’s law or directive, and 2) something he was to avoid knowledge about. (Related: Good Ignorance: Handling the Knowledge of Evil) Therefore, Adam knew of evil as a theory until he knew or “experienced” evil in his disobedience.

How about God? If experiential knowledge is the kind of knowledge Adam and Eve gained from disobedience, can we then conclude that God also has/d experiential knowledge of Good and Evil?

The Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.”[8]

As God is the paradigm of “Good,” how can it be possible for Him to have personal, experiential knowledge of Evil? Adam came to know by experience, specifically his experience of doing evil – evil being privatio boni, the privation (lack, absence) of good. Adam came to know evil when he did the opposite of good, which was obeying God. On the other hand

God’s omniscience allows Him to know all truths, including what is good, which is rooted in His own nature. And being a God of reason, He knew from eternity past that the absence of good would be evil. Therefore, it is not necessary for Him to know this truth by experience – either seeing it in others or doing it Himself – the latter being impossible. Adam, a non-omnnicient being, could only know evil by either seeing it in others or doing it himself – the latter being the unfortunate reality. In short, Adam became like God in that he knew evil, having come to know it by doing evil. God also knew evil, but by His perfect knowledge of all truth, including the necessary truth that evil is the absence of good.[9]

Implications and applications: Knowing good and evil is part of God’s image and character. Man’s knowledge of good and evil holds him accountable to follow His Creator, so that he will and can live his life in the goodness of God’s image. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and took it upon themselves, wanting to “be like God” – all knowing. This sin is pride. The antidote to pride is humility.

Humility is foundation to all other virtues man should learn to live his life. It sounds paradoxical that man, created in God’s image, with “royal splendor” and dignity, should take pride in his status, yet attempt to remain humble in the same image. Humility is not about self-abasement. It is acknowledging that whatever we have comes from God. It is about dependence on God and not on ourselves. Being in God’s image is to be humbly dignified, totally aware that we are God’s creature – a mere reflection of His glory, and not take His glory upon ourselves in our egocentricity.


[1] New American Standard Bible.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Godandneighbor. “How could Adam and Eve Sin Before Knowing Good and Evil?” God & Neighbor (2012) [home page on-line]; available from http://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/how-could-adam-and-eve-sin-before-knowing-good-and-evil/#comments; Internet; accessed 21 September 2013.
[5] New American Standard Bible.
[6] Godandneighbor.
[7] New American Standard Bible.
[8] New American Standard Bible.
[9] Godandneighbor.

December 1, 2016

Creation. Where the Christmas Story Begins . . .

o-come-o-come-emmanuel
by Clarke Dixon

If someone asked you to tell them the story of Christmas, where would you start? With the angels announcing to Mary and Joseph that a baby is on the way? Or perhaps with the prophets of the Old Testament announcing that the Messiah would someday be on His way? That is still not going far enough back for the Christmas story goes right back to Creation. How so?

Imagine you are attending a synagogue service sometime before Jesus is born. The rabbi has read from the scroll of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. You wonder what it must have been like for Adam and Eve in the Garden before the Fall. You ask yourself “What did Adam and Eve enjoy during that time that we are missing out on now?”

Perhaps some of you will think of being naked and unashamed! Perhaps not. Some of you may think of the wonderful non-violence of that time and place. Even in the animal kingdom there was a sense of peace and non-violence:

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:30 (NRSV)

How things have changed, with violence marking both the animal kingdom, and so called civilization.

However, the biggest change of all, and the thing you should miss the most, is the full-blown presence of God. God is spoken of as walking in the garden as any person might, and only after the “apple debacle” do Adam and Eve feel that His presence is a scary thing.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (NRSV)

We get a sense that before the eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve could spend time with God as easily as we might spend time with a family member or good friend.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would miss the presence of God without someone pointing to the Temple. The Temple was a symbol of God’s love; “I want to dwell with you.” But it was also a symbol of separation; “Because I am holy and you are not, I must dwell separated from you, in a holy place.” The Temple was a constant reminder that we are not in the Garden of Eden anymore. Adam and Eve enjoyed the full presence of God without the need for a Temple.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would also miss the presence of God without the need for a priesthood. The priesthood was again a symbol of God’s love; “I want a relationship with you.” But it was also a reminder of separation; “I am holy, and you are not, therefore we cannot have a relationship. You need people who are holy, separated out from you, to stand between you and me.” Adam and Eve could speak freely with God with no need for priests.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would also miss the presence of God without all the rigmarole of religion. The ritual purity code again is another reminder of separation from God. By setting up the religious code, God was revealing proper morality, yes, but was also in effect saying; “There are a lot of things you need to change about yourself before you can even approach me.” Adam and Eve did not need to get all religious when in the Garden.

So does Christmas change anything? There are signs that Christmas is part of everything changing! If you were God and you chose to be incarnate, where would you choose to be born? Perhaps in the Temple to remind the people of the separation that exists between yourself and humanity? God chose a different emphasis. Could you get any less temple-like than being laid in a manger? This is an “unclean” place.

Likewise, if you were God, who would you invite to be the first to come and see your infant Son? Perhaps it should be the priests, the people most focused on holiness? Nope, the Lord sends an invitation to shepherds, whose ritual holiness would be impossible to keep given their work with animals. And they come straightaway. No need to stop for purity focused observances. They come to Jesus without getting all religious about it.

The point is clear. God’s focus at Christmas is to be with us, right here in our mess, even though we are not worthy of Him. In place of our worth, is His grace. Where the temple, the priesthood, and even religion stood as symbols of separation, Christmas stands as a symbol of Presence.

Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I don’t recall where I first heard this, but Christmas is God with us, while Easter is God for us, and Pentecost is God within us. We can point to “the end,” to Christ’s return as our being with God as Adam and Eve were with God in the beginning.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; Revelation 21:1-3

Just as there was no temple in the Garden of Eden, that symbol of our separation from God is not found in the future:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. Revelation 21:22

Christmas, with its emphasis on “God with us,” points back to Creation when God was with Adam and Eve, to the present time as we enjoy God’s presence through the Holy Spirit, and forward to the great re-Creation when God will be with His people in the profound way He had in mind from the beginning.

What is your greatest delight at Christmas? Perhaps family? Or turkeys? (Hopefully you know the difference!) Perhaps time off work? Time away? Gifts? Or eggnog? God’s great delight and desire, which Christmas points to, is the realization of His original purpose in Creation; a loving relationship with people. While you may be into the eggnog, He is into you. He has prepared a wonderful Christmas gift, His presence, now, and for all eternity. Have you received that gift yet?

 All scripture references are from the NRSV

For those reading this the first week of December, 2016, click this link for a puppet script which was also part of the service containing this teaching.

September 21, 2014

One Single Rule, One Solitary Commandment

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden ‘?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.…   Genesis 3 (NIV)

This article by Jered Totten appeared earlier this month at the blog Christians in Context. As usual, you’re encouraged to read this at source by clicking the title below.

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

A million yeses, one no

We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. It was Shakespearean before Shakespearean was cool.

And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. A plum, a pear, maybe a pomegranate. We don’t know. There are some (quite serious) people out there who are certain it was a grape because wine comes from grapes and wine is the devil’s drink. I’ll leave that discussion for another time (perhaps after we share in the Communion table?).

But almost every person who has read that fateful chapter has at one time or another expressed the same frustration and confusion at the account of the fall:

“What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

I mean, it seems so arbitrary. So piddling. So banal. My pastor once described the pre-fall state of Adam and Eve as “a million yeses and one no”. But that one “no” seems so maddeningly trivial that some people are inclined to allegorize the entire story. “Surely the fruit represents sex” they say. (Right. ‘Cause that makes sense after God puts two nekked people in Eden and tells them to “be fruitful and multiply”. Sorry, try again. Better luck next time. Don’t quit your day job.)

But if this world of typhoid and typhoons, racism and rape, gender wars and genocide, tyranny and tragedy, is all due to a literal little nibble on the no-no nectarine (say that five times fast)…well, then we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands: namely, a God who looks a whole lot like Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts tearing through the universe crying “off with their heads!” when someone sneezes on his backswing.

Is there any way to understand the fruit, the forbidden, the fall, that doesn’t turn the entire story into a metaphor or turn God into a whimsical deity guilty of a cosmos-swallowing overreaction?

A long time ago in a Galilee (not so) far, far away…

I am reminded of another story in Scripture where there was a discussion about another singular rule, another solitary commandment.

And one of the scribes came up and … asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
(Mark 12:28-30 ESV)

From Jesus himself we are given the big E on the eye chart, the bullseye on the moral dartboard of life. Every other command, rule, prohibition, and exhortation uttered by God flows out of this one, including the one Jesus mentions immediately after (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”).

Or to say it another way, if you keep this one rule (love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength) then by default you will have kept all the other rules as well…including that one way back in the garden. Yes, the one about the fruit. Yup, the weird one. We’ll get there, but first, Jesus’ one commandment:

Love the Lord with all your heart:
Do you desire God more than anything else? Or are there other things that capture your heart and steal your affections?

Love the Lord with all your soul: Do you find your deepest identity in who God says you are? Or are you tempted to find your identity in who others say you are and the identity you can create for yourself?

Love the Lord with all your mind: Do you trust an infinitely wise and good God? Or do you trust your own reasoning first and only turn your thoughts in God’s direction when it makes sense to you?

Love the Lord with all your strength: Will the labor of your hands be used to show God as great, God as glorious, God as worthy of worship, praise, and honor? Or will you work and strive for that which will bring yourself glory and applause?

And now we are ready to return to the garden. Perhaps, by now, you see where I am going. Because the fruit didn’t just represent some arbitrary no-no. No, no, not at all. It represented a God-alternative that asked for their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Heart At Satan’s flowery promises of an eye-opening meal, Adam and Eve desired what the fruit offered more than what God offered.

Soul At Satan’s charge that God was holding out on them and that they could be so much more (i.e. “like God”), Adam and Eve reached for self-created identities rather than the identities given them by God.

Mind At Satan’s alternative story (which included painting God as a liar), Adam and Eve trusted their own reasoning and wisdom more than they trusted God’s.

Strength At Satan’s prompting, Adam and Eve lifted their hands to work for their own glory instead of God’s.

Epilogue

So yeah. The fruit was a big deal. If I may be so bold as to say it again, it represented a God-alternative that asked for their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But fortunately for us, God didn’t let the story end there. In the very same chapter of Genesis 3, God promises to send another, a singular offspring of woman, a snake-crusher.

And Jesus came. At every point where Adam and Eve failed (and we all continually fail), he did not. At every temptation for his heart, soul, mind, and strength, Jesus resisted and the full testimony of his life cried out:

“My heart is the Lord’s, and he is my greatest desire. My soul is the Lord’s, and he gives me my deepest identity. My mind is the Lord’s, and he is the most trustworthy source of wisdom and knowledge. My strength is the Lord’s, and my work is for his glory.”

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15-17 ESV)


Jared is the worship pastor at Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE. He tweets for Christians in Context at @cicblog