Sunday, March 29, 2009

Comments to Ona, part 5

Those of you who have been paying any attention to my Ona commentary may have noticed a pattern in all of my musings. If so, you're a better thinker than I. LOL! Personally, I feel like I'm wandering a lot, and I apologize if you feel the same way and find that frustrating . .

In any case, I want to take a left turn and talk about sin. Let's look at a pivotal story in the Bible: the "Fall" in the Garden of Eden. I'm not going to reiterate the story, because I assume that most of my friends who would be reading this already know it. (If I assume incorrectly, it's in Genesis 3. Check it out -- it's good potty reading.)

My friend is always encouraging me to forget for the moment whether a Biblical passage is factual or not -- it can be true without being factual, she says. (Just like the parables Jesus told -- just like other literature we read.) Whether or not it really happened, what is the truth in the passage? So, OK -- I'm going to try really hard to do it her way and not read into it the "fundamentalist" beliefs I was raised with. Just read it like a piece of literature . . . like one of the Greek myths I used to teach in English class . . not evaluating the veracity of the truths yet, just identifying them. So, looking at the story, what truths can we see there? I find a few:

1) Humanity is easily deceived. These two people were the first of God's creation, and they actually walked and talked with God. If anyone had reason to be solid on and certain of what was true -- and if anyone had access to the ultimate source of truth to check it out -- it was Adam and Eve. Humanity didn't get gullible as time went by -- we were so from the beginning.

2) What exactly was it they did that was wrong? They didn't believe God. God told them, "Don't eat from this tree." He didn't tell them why, but did he need to? Obviously, his word wasn't good enough for them. Instead, they listened to this serpent dude, whoever that is.

3) Why, ultimately, did they choose to eat the fruit? Beyond the fact that it was "pleasing to the eye" (was the rest of the garden's fruit ugly? why are the forbidden things always prettier?), they were told, "You will be like God." They saw that it was "desirable for gaining wisdom", that is God's wisdom. They wanted to be their own Gods.

4) Adam and Eve apparently had no issues with being naked until after they ate the fruit. Then they were ashamed of themselves and hid. Two possible takes on this -- their new knowledge of good and evil helped them see their nakedness was evil, or their new knowledge of good and evil helped them see their disobedience was evil and they couldn't bear being so open and vulnerable before God anymore. Seeing how their nakedness was not evil when God created them naked and pronounced everything "very good", I'd say the latter "truth" is a better interpretation.

5) Humanity apparently has an automatic reflex to blame someone else when they've done something wrong. To all parents out there, this is one for the "duh" file.

6) There were serious consequences to their actions. They were banned from the garden -- and no human ever went back. Life was now going to get HARD. God had given them an easy, blessed, fulfilling life, and they now had pain and toil and sweat and frustration. Not to mention death (many possibilities for what kind of death we're talking about here--no time to get into that right now).

7) Living forever in their current state would be a bad thing (which is the reason God gave for banishing them from the Garden and from access to the Tree of Life. Interesting that they were not forbidden to eat of this tree before now--was living forever part of the original plan, perhaps?).

In all, what truths do I get from this story that the reader would be expected to apply to life? I am not God . . . and I am not created to be one or become one. I am meant to be in an open, vulnerable, trusting, submissive relationship to God. That requires paying close attention to what God tells me and obeying even if it doesn't make sense. Failing to do so does irreparable damage to that relationship and sacrifices the life that God had in mind for me, a life He says was GOOD. And as far as this story goes, there is nothing I can do about it once the damage is done.

What "truths" do I find antithetical to this story? That we can trust our reasoning apart from God's revelation (we are easily deceived). That God's greatest desire for us is that we gain wisdom and understanding and are able to handle life on our own (he didn't want them to eat of the tree and gain the knowledge of good and evil-- he wanted them to depend on him). That we can make it all better after we screw up by repenting and promising to do better (there's no word in this story at all of things being made better -- they're banned from the Garden forever and their lives are never the same).

Now, I haven't read every Biblical story in this manner. This is one story out of the plethora in the Bible. And admittedly, the truths here fall short of "The Baptist Doctrine of Faith" from my parent's bookshelf. However, they certainly fall further on the conservative, traditional side of the spectrum than on the more liberal side. And I would expect that were I to examine the rest of the Bible this way, the consensus of "truths" therein would still lean my direction.

My point is, with all due respect, I think there is more behind the liberal take on Christianity than a "serious but non-literal" reading of the Bible. I don't know how you get to a radically liberal Christian belief system strictly from the Bible, without starting from a worldview that is already antagonistic to traditional beliefs.

Yep, there's more coming . . .

No comments: