Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Death in the garden..

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2: 9 ESV)

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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 ESV)

At face value this is a deadly experiment—can these newly created beings obey instructions?   If not, Adam and the woman will eliminate themselves—providing a clean slate for another try.  

The experimental subjects were conscious, facile with language, aware and able to appreciate each other.  They were able to work and maintain their environment. Did they understand death?  One must assume so.  It would hardly be fair for God to tell them they would surely [unknown concept]  if they ate of the fruit.

In other ways the pair was limited.  They didn’t have knowledge of good and evil.  They saw each other without seeing.   Adam at least, appeared to view the other as a pleasing extension of himself rather than a distinct individual (he didn't name Eve until after the fall). 

In truth God had not created a literal: if eat fruit—then drop dead experiment.  So what was He up to? 

Perhaps He wanted beings that were willing to risk death in order to pursue knowledge.  An exercise of free will, with a possible ultimate penalty.   This is a step that God could not command, but He could create the situation.  In a risk free garden this could not happen.  In a garden with forbidden fruit it required disobeying God’s command.

With this reading of the text we face the abyss. Does God sometimes command us to inaction, when He really wants action?  

Clearly God's command does not always express His intent.   When God wanted to test Abraham He commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on a mountain.  God's command was death, but His intent was a test followed by a blessing.    Even Jesus, in another garden, questioned God on what was really necessary.    Who can claim to know the mind of God?  

The woman and Adam decided to not accept their limited existence. They were willing to risk death to gain knowledge.  

In the aftermath there was cursing, dust, enmity, pain, servility, hard work, and death.  But there was also vision, God-like knowledge, the joy of children, destiny, desire, relationship, and freedom. 

I think they made the right choice. 

Death in the garden.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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: 15-17 ESV)

With the prohibition concerning the tree, God reveals a gap between the created pair and Himself.  He possesses the knowledge of good and evil and they do not.  The existence of the forbidden tree establishes God’s superiority, and as if to rub it in, He places it in the garden, the center of their existence.  Without the serpent, the pair might not have noticed, but once they saw the chasm it had their full attention. 

Forbidden fruit—would we have been better off without it?  Perhaps happier, but without the knowledge of good and evil, the foundation of ethics, what would we be? Would we know love?  Could we be kind or humble?  I think not.  Did God really want us to remain somewhat dull, obedient gardeners, or was the menace of the deadly fruit the red pill?  Was this fruit the poison pill necessary for emergence into true consciousness and self-awareness? 
Is it our reach for ethics that condemns us to death? We reject the command of God, which reveals itself as the prohibition of knowledge.  But acquiring that knowledge carries a heavy price—our deaths.   Not the drone missile sort of physical annihilation we might expect from God, rather it is the suicidal killing of a blissful life of ease and pleasure in our private Garden of Eden.   We were born there, with warmth, food, a woman to comfort and care for us—oblivious to our nakedness.  And we must leave.

We become fully aware.   We see that we are naked, feel pain, experience desire for and against others, toil, become responsible, and get exiled.   No longer can we just pick the fruit around us.  We have to work to survive. 

If we quest to be like God, we discover / choose a double death:  the reality of our own physical mortality, and the necessity of our own sacrificial deaths in satisfying the needs of the good, and in opposing evil.   Not necessarily physical death, but whatever is requiredthe putting to death of always doing what we want, when we want it.  God won’t kill us in this fashion; we must choose this death on our own.

God’s message: don’t enter into the knowledge of good and evil, as He has, unless you are ready to die.  

 And once you gain that knowledge, eternal life via the other tree is no longer freely within our grasp.  Now it is only reachable through death—in this case God’s.