Monday, August 22, 2005

And the eyes of them both were opened (Gen 3:7-13)

I think many children go through a process like this at some point in their life: having their eyes opened, as it were. There comes a day when you realize that you have the freedom to act against your parents' will. This happens at different ages and in different ways, but whatever it is, you suddenly realize your own power as a free individual, and it changes the way you see the world around you. Oh my gosh, mommy and daddy don't know everything! Well, in this case, God is the parent, and He does know everything. But the fact that He knows everything and has the ability to control everything doesn't mean that it's something He's going to flaunt. Still, the man and woman had their outlook on God change.

The very first manifestation of this was noticing that they were naked. There's once again something literal and figurative in this. All throughout the Bible, there's a linkage between the themes of clothing and sin. In particular, I've always thought it was interesting to look at the parallel between this chapter and the story of the crucifixion. The man and the women sin against the will of God; Jesus becomes sin according to the will of God. The man and the women are separated from God's presence by guarding cherubim; the curtain of the Jewish temple which is embroidered with cherubim and separates man from God is torn open. God gives mankind clothing by killing an animal; mankind takes Jesus' clothing and kills Him on the cross. It's an interesting symbolic and literal reversal on many levels. In any case, they suddenly realize they've got something shameful to cover up.

The next thing that happens is that God "shows up". I put it in quotes because, as the SAB points out, there's some trouble you run into if you take verse 8 fully literally. Here's God in the garden, walking and talking like just some other guy, it almost seems. But we do know both from scripture and from commonly accepted doctrine that God has no body. A very likely possibility is of this passage being figurative; to some extent, it must be since God is also omnipresent. Then again, having no corporeal substance and being omnipresent at the same time is also a problem. I think it simply has to be accepted that God was literally there in the garden in some form, because even if he has no "body", He's everywhere, which includes the garden. So the sense of omnipresence is a spiritual rather than physical thing necessarily. (I hope this is making some sort of sense, I'm not feeling really well today for some reason.)

Another thing that is also often accepted, though, is that God does, at times, cause Himself to take on a physical human-like form (if not actually human). The man and woman perhaps experienced Him often in this form, visiting them in the garden. This time, when they heard Him coming, they hid. The fact that they hid from an omniscient being doesn't pose a conundrum, nor does the fact that God asks them where they are. My own children sometimes climb into my bed and pull the covers over their head to hide, completely missing the fact that the child-sized lump in the bed discloses their location. If I say, "Where are you?" I'm not admitting ignorance, but feigning it for the purpose of playing along in a little hide-and-seek. God's not playing, but throughout the Bible, God asks people questions He already knows the answer to in order to give them a chance to confess and seek forgiveness. I've heard some pastors muse that if Adam had only popped out and said, "Alright, I was hiding because I was ashamed that I ate the fruit, and now I'm afraid I'm going to die, please forgive me?" that things would have been, well not back to perfect, but better in any case.

God even gives Adam a second chance, hinting at the truth. Adam takes the chance to put the blame not only on his wife, but God Himself: "The woman (yeah, it was the woman, that's right, I was just standing here!) whom thou gavest (wait a minute, wasn't it God's idea that I had to have this trouble-maker with me? Yeah, I think this was His fault; I want my rib back!) to be with me..." The woman even tries to pass the buck as well. In the end, though, God's not buying any of it.

I think the Bible is a strong supporter of the idea that everyone is responsible for their own choices. I think it may sound odd coming in the middle of the story of original sin, and how this one act of eating a piece of fruit ended up changing the world for every human that ever lived, but it fits here. Yes, we are all stained by original sin, and have that sinful nature within us that we inherited from Adam, but at the same time, God will expect us to take responsibility for our own lives and our own destinies. In tomorrow's entry, I'll talk about the curse that came on the world, but I'll also talk a bit more about God's plan to take care of lifting the curse. God does His part, and we do ours. And it's not a meet me halfway deal, it's God coming 100% of the way, and only asking for your response.


Anonymous said...

What troubles me most about this chapter is God's apparent refusal to teach his children the difference between right and wrong (symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). Without the fruit, how could Adam and Eve known that disobedience was bad, that the serpent's advice was untrustworthy, and that nudity was shameful?

Failure to teach the difference between wrong and right and to make sound moral decisions based on these values is a universally accepted example of irresponsible parenting. An omnipresent god would have intervened in the serpent's approach to Eve, instead of pretending to have his back turned. An omnipotent god would have revealed enough information to Adam and Eve to make more informed choices, or at least placed the two most important trees of the garden in less accessible locations (but only if he were benevolent).

Instead, we're expected to praise Him for blaming the whole incident on them, kicking his kids out of the house, and punishing all those who followed them. In Genesis, God becomes the world's first deadbeat dad.

Brucker said...

I think you miss out on the deeper implications of what the tree really means, and it's a topic I address more pointedly in an earlier post specifically on that subject. I'll try and give a short form response here, though.

God did not deny Adam and Eve an understanding of good and evil; in fact, he made it nice and simple so it could be easily understood. Evil is things that you're not supposed to do that will have bad consequences. For Adam and Eve, that consisted of a single thing: eating from the tree.

Essentially, God made everything they really needed and offered them a chance to live with Him so that He could keep things that way. The tree wasn't a "magic" tree as most people see it; the tree was symbolic of the statement, "God, I reject your control over my life and the boundaries you have made for me: I want to figure it out for myself and make my own rules!"

After eating the fruit, then they "knew" good and evil in "the Biblical sense" if you follow. Evil was no longer just this thing that existed in the world separate from them, but had become something they had made intimately a part of themselves by physically taking it into their body.