Tweets, Snakes, Women and Freedom

3rdcent

Adam & Eve. ~3rd Century. Artist Unknown

I couldn't believe how many good questions I received after the sermon yesterday on Genesis 3. You all are dialoguing very deeply with Scripture and whenever that happens, good questions come up! Please, keep up the good work! Below are some of the questions that I couldn't get to in our Q&A time: 

From Twitter:

@DayutisDanielle so God knew Eve and Adam would sin why the dramatic scene in the garden?

What a phenomenal question! A few things here... First, we need to remember God's Word was written for us, not for God. God's knowledge is not limited to Scripture nor does God need to put truth on a page for Himself. Scripture is a book inspired by God FOR humans. God gave us Scripture b/c God loves us and b/c God wants us to know Him. Scripture is God's love letter to us. God's actions are never selfishly driven.

As well, Scripture makes it very clear that God is the "alpha and the omega." God knows everything - "the end from the beginning" and God is completely sovereign. But God's knowledge and power over everything does not in any way impinge or unduly limit us in our own consciousness as we daily make real decisions that have real effects. This was true for Adam and Eve, and it is true for us. Without getting too deep in philosophy here (although to be sure philosophy is a definite aid for theology here) God describes to us the scene in Genesis 3 not for HIM, but so WE could understand the origin of death and also more importantly, how the Gospel overcomes death itself. It is interesting that when you look at how the Apostle Paul treats these passages, He uses them in the new testament as a way to proclaim the Gospel message that Christ is Lord of all and worthy of all our praise. God does all of this for OUR knowledge, so we could begin to understand the things God already understands. 

From the Congregation: 

"Why did God place temptation in the garden of Eden? Did He already know that man/woman would be tempted and sin?" 

Wow, another great question. Yes, I don't know of any reputable Biblical scholar who would say God didn't always know everything. God is omniscient. God is never surprised. The question is: Why would God allow for the option to disobey? Why wouldn't God want His people to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Is our God the type who is petty and jealously guards holy secrets or who eagerly punishes the disobedient? (you will hear this from skeptics). As Christians, we say, "of course not...God set boundaries out of love b/c God knows even better than we do how humans can flourish here on earth..."

In Genesis 1-3 we see God gives humans freedom and vocation all within boundaries. Why the boundary? Does God want us to be ignorant of some things? No. It's not as if Adam and Eve had no concept of morality at that point - they knew what was right and what was wrong. But to eat of the tree was to gain some knowledge they weren't yet ready for. Satan wanted them to believe that God's prohibition was out of insecurity, but of course, this was a lie. What is going on here is not an issue of ignorance, but trust. God wanted Adam and Eve to grow not only in knowledge and obedience, but in wisdom. When humans come upon deep truths without wisdom, humans use it for their own power and it hurts people. God knew this and He didn't want it to happen. Adam and Eve thought that if they did something different than what God said, they could become Gods themselves. But the story teaches otherwise. We find out from Genesis 3 that eternal security is never gained apart from the reality of God. Eternal security is gained only through obedience, wisdom and trust in God's word. When we make choices and use our God-given freedom apart from the boundaries God has set for us, we become anxious people, like Adam and Eve. Failure to trust God with our lives is death, every time. At that point, Adam and Eve were not ready to deal with the knowledge they would receive and the ability to make particular decisions. I'm reminded of Christ in the wilderness. When Satan offeres him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would simply bow down to him (Luke 4:5-7). It's not as if there was anything wrong with Christ ruling over the kingdoms of the world - after all it was His destiny. The problem was in timing. The tempation involved bypassing appropriate process and timing, seizing them through deviant means. And Christ wouldn't do it that way. Christ is the TRUE Adam - Christ responded as Adam should have. 

One way of viewing it is to say that God prohibited the tree because autonomy and sexuality should come only at the end of an appropriate process. Adam and Eve at that time were not ready. Like a child who wants to drive... one day they will be able to. But it's not good to put a newborn at the wheel. As one Evangelical Old Testament scholar says, "Our society is well-aware of the problems that arise when children are given autonomy too early or become sexually active too young. It is not the fruit that brings death. It is the disobedience that brings the sentence of death" (John Walton). God offered nothing less to Adam and Eve than the privilege of freedom and the joy of dependance. But they rejected that offer. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it is with us. 

The modern search for independence from God continues to this day. But when people reject dependence on God, people choose a far more costly dependency - on themselves and their own resources. In seeking autonomy, freedom and power apart from God, they only forge new chains. As Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcy note: 

All the ideologies, all the Utopian promises that have marked this century have proven utterly bankrupt. Americans have achieved what modernism presented as life's great shining purpose: individual autonomy, the right to do what one chooses. Yet this has not produced the promised freedom; instead it has led to the loss of community and civility, to kids shoting kids in schoolyards, to citizens huddling in gated communities for protection. We have discovered that we cannot live with the chaos that inevitably results from choice divorced from morality. (Colson and Pearcy, How Now Shall We Live? xi). 

"Why did God punish the serpent (the animal)? Especially if Satan was possessing the animal? 

The Israelites would not have necessarily identified the serpent with Satan. As Christians, we learn later that the serpent was Satan. They would have understood the serpent to stand for that which is evil. So it wouldn't have been seen quite as literally as we do. The Israelites would have understood this to mean that God was going to make sure evil will not win and will remain disgusting at least in some way to all people. 

"Why didn't Eve turn to Adam and Adam turn to God when they were talking to Satan?" 

Because they got distracted! Satan planted a seed of doubt in them - they got confused, probably got emotional, and made a decision they later regreted. What sorts of lessons should we learn from this? 

"Where did Satan come from?" 

We learn in Scripture that Satan was at one time an angel (also created with freedom as humans are) and Satan got prideful and wanted to use His power over others. God couldn't have this, so God kicked Satan out of heaven and all of the people that Satan also convinced. Satan knows that he is ultimately less powerful than God and Satan knows he will in the end be placed in the lake of fire. For now, he wants to take as many people with him. 

"What is the significance in the name of the "Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? Why did God give it this name?"

In the Hebrew this is a merism - which means it speaks of all things in between as well. The tree was a symbolic representation of advanced knowledge and would give humans the ability (and thus a heavy responsibility) to discern and decide things that at that time God was only able to do. 

"Does Eden still exist in this time in history?" 

I don't really know... if it did, would be near Iran or Iraq, probably. First, we have to remember that this is not written as a modern geographical text. It is true that the sources of the rivers were known in the ancient world, but geography here is not topographical, it is cosmic. Though the four rivers were real bodies of water, their description seems to concern their cosmic role. As John Walton explains, "The main point was that the river of Eden was the place of God's abode and the source of life-giving water for the earth that flowed through those rivers." The idea of four streams probably represented the four corners of the earth. 

In these days, we know of the Tigris and Euphrates river, but we don't know the Pishon and Gihon (some scholars speculate they are rivers in Mesopotamia or just outside of Mesopatamia - Nile, Indus, Ganges, Balikh or Diyala). You may have heard the statement, "All roads lead to Rome." This statement does not describe what you found out from a map, but was an affirmation of cultural and political centrality. I think something similar is happening here with the Garden of Eden. Its location is not given so that it can be found but so that its strategic role can be appreciated. All fertility emanates from the presence of God. 

"It seems as though God actually was physically present with Adam and Eve on earth, dwelling with them (Gen 4:21, 3:10, 8). Is this important to know, and why? I think it is in regard to his desire for closeness to him and also our promise of heaven. Did God leave the earth physically once sin occurred?" 

God was somehow present with them before they sinned! I can't imagine how cool that would have been! As they saw God - did they understand Him as God the Father or God the Son or God the Spirit, or all three? I'm curious what this exprience would have been like for them? Because God is perfect and holy, He could not abide with them in the same way after they sinned. So God did not manifest Himself with them on a constant basis. But we see Him constantly showing up in the OT. We'll talk a lot about this in the next few months. It looked different after Genesis 3 - but God was still always taking care of humanity. 

As someone emailed me this morning. A relevant verse for this entire conversation is I John 3:8: 

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 

It's always good to get our questions answered - but let's not lose sight of the forest in the trees. Genesis 3:15 is a promise that God will crush Satan's head - and God did this through Jesus! We should worship God! In Genesis 3:15 we see grace and as we will see, God's grace doesn't ever run out. It is waiting for all who would accept it! 

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