Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another look at Genesis 3. Part III

In my previous post , I tried to make the case that rather than being a bait intended to snare man, the fact that the two trees were planted so prominently in the center of the garden suggests that they represented a moral choice Adam and Eve were to make at some point during their stay in the garden. A snare would not be so prominently displayed, I think, but more importantly we know from the book of James that God does not tempt us to sin.

I have suggested that the course of events recorded in the passage indicates strongly that while both trees were originally accessible to man, once a choice was made for one this was no longer so. I believe, therefore, that if man had made the choice to eat from the tree of life, God would most assuredly have restricted access to the tree of knowledge. God’s governance versus self-governance was what was being presented as man’s chief moral choice in the garden. Man could not have both eternal life and the right to manage his own affairs separate from God’s oversight. God would not permit a created being to have all knowledge, absolute dominion over his own realm and eternal life to boot. This, I have suggested, would essentially have made man a God-type or “mini god”. Chapter 3 v 22 appears to indicate this.

So given this stark choice and man’s unfortunate decision, what was man to expect? We all know how we treat our friends, family, kids etc when they willfully ignore good counsel. If God was a man, I would have expected Him to wash His hands off man completely—to leave him to his own machinations and to the natural consequences of his choice. After all, Adam had been warned and had spurned God’s warning.

Many interpret God’s pronouncements at this point in this manner. But might not the consequences have been a lot worse if God had really left man to face the full consequences of his disobedience? Remember, man by choosing the tree of knowledge had effectively declared his intent to manage his own affairs. Up to this point and as long as Adam and Eve worked under the divine governance, God had significantly lightened their work of caring for their dominion. One example can be found in the provision made for the watering of the Garden of Eden, which I believe was the first automatic irrigation system. A complete abandonment of man to his chosen path could have been a lot worse.

I see therefore, even in the pronouncements made after man’s fall, an inkling of God’s grace. God did allow the natural consequences of sin to play out, but perhaps in a lighter form than what might have been. An obvious example of such muted punishment is the fact that God’s presence remained both with Adam and Eve in the garden and as chapters 4 shows also to their children. We see other indications of the Father’s love in this very moment of man’s fall when we see God fashioning a covering for man from an animal—an animal that had to lose its life—as a first example of the salvation that was to follow much later in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. This picture already sets in motion God’s plan for salvation and we begin to see all the processes that would eventually lead to the death of His son as a covering for our sin. What a great God we serve. He continues to extend that grace to all today.

The whole issue of free choice with muted consequence seems to permeate the Bible. At many points throughout Scripture, we see grace where punishment is expected. One day though, the Bible teaches that God’s full undiluted anger will be poured out. Till then we are charged with the task of spreading the good news of His mercy—a God, who from the beginning of time, has never wished that any should perish but that all will see the light, choose life with Him over death through self-governance. I am awed and overwhelmed by His great love for us manifested throughout Scripture.

I will leave things here but implore someone else to engage this topic. There appears to be a lot in these verses worthy of further study. For example there is the issue of nakedness. What does it mean in these passages; merely physical nakedness or something deeper? Prior to the fall, were Adam and Eve oblivious to their nakedness because they were clothed with God’s righteousness? Did they become aware of their nakedness when they lost this covering? Are sin and death the nakedness we feel when we live outside His government—a desire to hide away from God rather than to come into His presence with boldness? Is this one of the chief blessings purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross—the provision of a garment of righteousness to cover the nakedness of our sin? God bless. – Gaius Columbus

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another look at Genesis 3. Part II

In the first part , I wanted to dispel the notion of the restriction regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil —by itself— being the source of sin. I suggested that the incitement to disobedience only arose when the Serpent was injected into the equation. I argued that the presence of the tree and the command pertaining to it should not be seen as bait. Even further, the perception of this tree as bait becomes less valid when we consider the fact that there were two special trees planted in the garden. There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but there was also the tree of Life.

Interestingly it appears that both trees were planted in the center of the garden. They took center place and appear to have been the focal point of the garden. I would argue that this is so because they represent a choice that Adam and Eve faced right from the start. These trees merely represent a choice man was to make at some point, a choice he was constantly aware of but which came to a head when the serpent initiated that pivotal discussion.

Let us remember that Adam and Even had been made in the image of God. In what way was this true? Well, chapter 1 v 26 suggests that this related to man’s dominion over all of God’s creation. Man was master over his realm. I think the trees represented a moral choice man was to make. He could choose to remain under God’s authority and to receive the gift of eternal life—i.e. choose eternal life under God’s jurisdiction or choose to go his own way, guided by his intellect and his own judgment of right and wrong but in doing so forfeit eternal life.

In Genesis Chapter 3 v 22, after the fall, God makes this statement. “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” (NIV) Hence, contrary to popular notion, man was not eternal at his creation. It suggests that he was to die at some point.

These choices between life and death appear to have been mutually exclusive. We know that to choose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the tree of death) was to reject the tree of life because when man chose this path, the tree of life was then made inaccessible to him. I want to suggest to you that if man had instead chosen to eat from the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would immediately have become inaccessible to him. If man had chosen eternal life, I see no reason why God would have left the tree of knowledge in the garden, leaving open the possibility of the one thing He (God) most wanted to avoid—the confluence of domination, eternal life and knowledge.

In other words, what was not allowed was for man to have domination over God’s creation, eternal life and all knowledge, making him more or less another God. Although not explicitly mentioned, it seems logical and strongly suggested in Genesis 3 v 22 that if man acquired all three attributes—dominion over God’s creation, eternal life and the knowledge of good and evil—he would in essence become divine (even if merely a more limited kind of divinity).

So man had to choose between 2 positions: He could choose to be like God in his authority and in his possession of eternal life but remain subordinate to God in restrictions relating to knowledge and decision-making. Or he could retain his authority and choose to go his own way. If he did the latter, though, he forfeited his right to eternal life. God will not countenance another divine being besides himself. And as long as man had not made or had the opportunity to exercise this choice, both trees remained in the garden. Once he chose one tree, however, the other was removed. Seen this way, then, the tree of knowledge is not bait but represents a choice that man was called to make.

So, in summary, with respect to the two trees, I see them not as bait but as a choice that all human beings are still required to make today. A choice between Life under God’s government but with eternal life to boot or life (actually death) under our own government, forfeiting the gift of eternal life—which I interpret to be a life of continued uninterrupted communion with Him. Man in choosing one rejected the other and the death that was promised was immediate even though he continued to live physically. This suggests that the death being mentioned here is not a physical death and I will expand on this theme in my next post.

Incidentally, this choice between life and death is a pattern repeated over and over in the scriptures. It is reminiscent of old and new testament scriptures which implore man to choose between life—going it God’s way—and choosing death—choosing our own way. The two are mutually exclusive.

Finally, all of this forms a prototype that culminates in the choice all are asked to make in respect to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s mission and ministry, is to restore all things to the right order; God over all, man with eternal life and dominion over God’s creation, but only in accordance to God’s written prescriptions. It is what we are called to do even as we wait for the Day of His coming. Die to self and to surrender our lives to his government. - Gaius Columbus

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another look at Genesis 3

The deeper question for me and, I believe, the key to answering the questions posed in yesterday’s post is not why the tree was put in the garden but rather, why the Serpent had access to the couple?

Remember that the tree by itself posed no moral threat. By that I am suggesting that without the serpent, the tree was impotent with regard to inciting disobedience. For disobedience to occur, the instrument of disobedience, the Serpent, had to be present as the catalyst. The problem therefore lies with the serpent and not the tree.

Let us consider God’s instruction about the tree as a prohibitive law- a law intended to restrict a particular action. Let us not forget, however, that God gave other commands. In Chapter 1 verse 28, He told Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth and to subdue it. Let’s call these laws prescriptive laws because, in contrast to prohibitive laws which instructed Adam and Eve about what not to do, these laws emphasized what they were to do.

Seen this way, one immediately begins to realize that the tree is immaterial to this particular argument because as I stated above, the true source of sin in the Garden of Eden was not the commands, whether prohibitive or prescriptive, but instead, the whispers of the agent of disobedience. In that case, it is not inconceivable to imagine that the Serpent, in the absence of the tree, would have found other ways to tempt Adam and Eve to disobey God’s commands. This would have been so whether God’s instructions were of exclusively prescriptive or prohibitive bend. Incidentally, since the fall, our own flesh has joined Satan in inciting us to disobedience. The laws of God are good; unfortunately, we have internal and external enemies that constantly draw us to break these good laws. In the book of James, he writes we sin because of our own intrinsic propensity to sin following the fall. The parallel situation before the fall is that Adam and Eve sinned because Satan incited them to do so. The Law was not the problem; Satan was.

To ask why did God put the tree in the garden then is to ask the deeper question, is the God of order as Paul calls Him in Corinthians, entitled to make laws? To drive this home, let me consider a different scenario. If rather than the story we have recorded in Genesis, we were told that Adam and Eve fell from grace because, tempted by the Serpent, they refused to multiply, to fill the earth and to subdue it, would we then say God had baited them to acts of disobedience by giving them these particular laws?

All the above brings me to what I consider to be the more important question, why was the Serpent given access to the Garden of Eden? I believe this is best understood in terms of the cosmic struggle between God and Satan that preceded the creation. I have already rambled on quite a bit, so I will stop here. I will, in my next post, reflect on and attempt to answer this question. I will also attempt to expand on what I have shared so far. Stopping here also allows you to comment, to expand or disagree. I welcome your comments. - Gaius Columbus

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Monday, September 17, 2007

ORIGIN OF SIN. Genesis Chapter 3

I have been reflecting and trying to analyze what exactly happened in the Garden of Eden in an attempt to better understand the genesis of sin. I have a couple of thoughts and questions. Why did God have to put a “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the garden? Was He not baiting man? What did God mean when He said Adam would die if he ate the fruit? In that context what is death and what is life?

Reading through the Genesis 3 narrative, I see that physical death was a punishment for Adams disobedience and not the consequence God referred to when He warned Adam about eating the fruit. Indeed, Adam did not physically die for another 900 years plus after that episode and I am assuming that Adam’s life span was calculated from the time of the fall when the death sentence he was given. Another question therefore comes up; are the consequences and punishments for sin the same or different?

Another striking thing to me is that there was no remorse from Adam or Eve after their sins were uncovered. Did that have any effect on Gods judgment? I compare that with the reactions of David and Saul after they were both confronted with their sins. The former’s repentance was immediate and unconditional; the latter was sullen and defiant and the punishments were very different.

In the aftermath of the fall in the Garden of Eden, the discourse between God, the man, the woman and the serpent also requires some reflection. God speaks first and gives the man and the woman a chance to speak. The serpent is given no chance to speak and is immediately punished. Very starkly, the serpent or Satan is cursed by God but no curse is laid directly on mankind. Rather in Vs 17 the ground, and I take that to mean the Earth, is cursed because of mankind’s sin. Is there some principle here to be learnt about how God deals with sin and who can be forgiven? Why does Satan never get a chance to redeem himself but man does despite our defiance in the Garden and all the evil we still do?

Leading on from the above, who really goes to Hell? Is it just anyone who has not accepted Jesus or is it those who have rejected Him? I think these are two very different positions. You cannot reject what you have not been given a chance to accept. I am not saying everyone will go to heaven and no one will go to hell but is there some bigger aspect of the plan of salvation that we are not yet privy to?

I do have some thoughts and comments on the questions I want I would like to have some input from somewhere, particularly my brothers on this blog, before I continue. - AL.

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