Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who told you that you were naked?

Immediately after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit “the eyes of both of them were opened; and they realized they were naked.” What manner of eye opening was this?

Was it like the visual jump we experience when looking at the picture on the left?

Which do you see, saxophone player or a young woman? Now do you see the other?

Adam and Eve were naked--they just hadn’t noticed. Once perceived, they scrambled to cover up. Why this sudden modesty? Was it because this was the first time they had noticed their naughty bits—which clearly needed to be covered up? Did they have company--the serpent hanging around, exulting in his victory, or were there children about from already obeying God’s command to multiply?

I think they realized they had been parading around the Lord of the Universe wearing nary a stitch.

Various theories suggest human attributes which distinguish us from other animals. Language and the use of tools are possibilities, but some animals (e.g. whales) seem to communicate, and some animals use simple tools like rocks or twigs to obtain food. However, I am not aware of any creature besides mankind that has a sense of modesty. The mode of modesty varies greatly, ranging from bursas, to a string around the waist with a few trinkets attached, to nothing but tattoos--but the concept is there. Little children start out without any modesty at all, but that changes, at least for a while.

So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Presumably the fig leaves are still in place, but the couple still hid from God. Have they become aware of more than just their nakedness? They had disobeyed God’s command. Like kids that had just broken the vase in the living room, their first impulse was to hide.

God walks through the garden and asks, “Where are you?"

Why would the omniscient deity just in from the creation of a multi-billion light year universe pretend He could not see two humans cowering amongst the trees? In reality those half-naked creatures had become something different; they had become god-like, “like one of us.” Was God treating these newly minted, god fearing creatures with respect? The same respect a parent grants when they play peek-a-boo with their toddler, or calls out "where are you” during hide-and-go-seek, even though they see legs sticking out from under the table. A parent knows that these stages are necessary for children to develop a sense of self and a model of how that self fits into the environment around them.

Adam responds, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

The fig leaves weren’t doing their job; they had not restored the world back to the way it was. Adam and Eve felt their souls, as well as their bodies exposed to the gaze of the Creator--and they knew fear. Likely they feared for their lives, after all God had said, "when you eat of it you will surely die."

God pursues, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

God offers an opportunity for clarification and confession. Could the serpent have told Adam and Eve that they were naked in a failed attempt to shame them into disobedience? Is this all a misunderstanding? No, sin did happen.

The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’

Adam responds to God with a pattern we know well. Yes, I disobeyed, but it wasn’t my fault. In fact this situation is really your fault for giving me that woman. Unwilling to take responsibilities for our actions, our first reaction when challenged about our sin is often to blame God. God, you created those appetites in me. God you gave me no choice. God, your commands are so unreasonable.

Adam makes no other defense and he offers no apology. The first couple were the first to fall, and the first to suffer the consequences of their sin. We don’t know if they ever repented of their sin.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

Their knowledge of good and evil got Adam and Eve tossed out of the garden into a hard life. But God gave them a good set of clothes to replace the innocence they had lost.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Did God really say?

In thinking about God’s Word, I’m drawn to the fifty-seventh verse in the Bible:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ”Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (NIV)

This verse is a milestone. It introduces:
  • The dissonance of a creature, made by God, that is in opposition to God
  • A talking serpent--apparently not a surprising thing to Eve
  • The first, and perhaps only time God is misquoted in the Bible. What God said earlier was: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Creation and Fall”, observes:

“The serpent’s question: ‘Did God say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ was a thoroughly religious one. But with the first religious question in the world evil has come upon the scene”

Eve’s response to the serpent’s misstatement is the epitome of innocence—correction, but with deference to the questioner.

“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’”

Bonhoeffer comments:
“The fact that Eve must qualify something regarding the Word of God—even if it is falsely represented—must throw her into the greatest confusion. It must indeed enable her to feel, for the first time, the attraction of making judgments about the Word of God. By means of the obviously false the serpent will now bring down that which is right. “

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

There were elements of truth in the serpent’s lie--those truths gave his argument power. Humanity was not physically extinguished that day, and we do know good and evil. But God was telling the truth, something more fundamental than physical existence died that day. Before there was no need to reach for life--afterward eternal life was not something obtained so cheaply.

I too feel the attraction of making judgments about God’s Word.

I’m not saying that I have to take everything in the Bible literally. I am talking about the dangers of approaching the Word, not with humility and openness, but as an arbiter of its truth. As Bonhoeffer says, if I ask, “Did God really say…This is the question that appears innocuous but through it evil wins power in us, through it we become disobedient to God.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I AM writing assignment


Yes, Father.

I have a job for you. Now that the sons of man have gotten around to inventing writing I would like you to create a written version of yourself.


This task presents some challenges, even for Us. For starters, it can’t have any contradictions, it has to match physical reality, it has to be historically accurate, and it shouldn’t have any similarities to existing writings—we wouldn't want them thinking we plagiarized stuff. And, although it obviously will be great literature, you’ll have to keep it to a single writing style; otherwise they will be postulating a different author for every style. Cultural biases are a no-no, and as far as vocabulary goes, you are going to have to keep it simple. Their vocabulary isn’t very big yet; only a few thousand words, and I don’t think it will do to make up new words—that would be interfering.

Hmmm… What language should I use?

That’s a tough one. I am wondering if we screwed up with the Babel thing—the whole thing would have fallen over on its own if we had just left them alone. I’m thinking Hebrew, and then Greek once it’s available—it has some nice features.

Won’t the meanings of words drift over time?

Oh...time—I forgot about that. I guess once their grubby little hands are on it we won’t be able to update it. Oh, never mind, it will give them something to argue about. They love to argue.

How about the other languages?

They will just have to muddle along with translations and paraphrasing if they are too lazy to learn Hebrew and Greek. Besides they can always ask us directly for clarification if they’re serious.

Can I farm some of this out Father?

What, too busy building mansions?

No, I was thinking that it might give a nice, multi-dimensional feel to it if I involve some of the better players.

That’s an interesting idea Son. Job and David come to mind for the emotional crowd. Moses will bore them to tears with details, but he’s good with dictation. Solomon and Paul will appeal to the intellectuals. Start with some of your own stuff, though. Write some words in stone to set the tone.

Father, I see a big problem with this. If I create a perfect written version of myself that meets all your requirements, won’t it be tough not to believe in Us?

You are always good at illuminating the flaws in things. You’re right. A perfect written Word would take away free will.