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, October 19, 2007

Genesis 3, another recap.

The key motifs of choice, consequence and grace that we see in the preceding several posts permeate scripture. Grace, in one sense, is God’s continued involvement in our lives despite our conscious choice to go our way—to direct our own lives. It is His refusal to abandon us—at least for a season (a “very long” season if you ask me)—even when we choose to abandon His prescribed bath. It is His willingness to accept us when we turn from our ways. This, for me, is the story of the garden. It is also the story of the Prodigal son. It is the story of the wealthy young man and Jesus, whom the Bible says Jesus continued to love even though his choice was for self-determination rather than submission.

This feature of God’s nature—His obstinate love for His creation during this long epoch of grace (God will not strive with man forever), never ceases to amaze, humble and move me. Perhaps, He loves creatures as unworthy of this love as you and I because he knows our nature, and perhaps it is because, like Jesus said, we do not fully comprehend what we do. I don’t know. I just know I am grateful for this all-encompassing love that seeks me out even when I turn my back. Wouldn’t it be great if we loved each other that way, loved our spouses and our kids and co-workers that way?

The trees in the garden, in one sense, can be seen as metaphors for choice; choice for Life lived in subjugation to God, or Death from a life lived for self. Seen this way, the serpent merely brought to a head what man had probably been pondering a while—the opportunity to run his own affairs. It is indeed strange that after the act of disobedience, Adam and Eve did not immediately grab hold of the Tree of life. This suggests to me that perhaps the choice was never theirs to make (since God immediately forbade it). From a practical standpoint, then, it seems their choice of one path precluded the other. I say this because it is implausible to me that God would have left the tree of knowledge in the garden even if man had wisely chosen to eat first from the tree of life. Why, because the end result would have been the same. The two choices, therefore, and irrespective of the order in which they occurred must have been mutually exclusive.

The garden, then, is to me a metaphor for the continuing basic choice all men through the ages and today are asked to make—a life of trust in God, and His wisdom, love and goodness versus a life of trust in our own abilities and discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes this case clearly. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. The key word is trust.

I see now that true Wisdom is not to be found in the fact that we see the “sense” in or the reasons for a particular instruction given by God. Rather it is to be found in the fact that we see the “sense” in following the Giver of those instructions—even when the instruction itself appears “nonsensical” to us. Wisdom is not a discernment of the reason for a rule but instead a mental attitude, a moral inclination, a conscious choice to order one’s life from a position of fundamental trust in God’s will and love and wisdom. The fear (reverence for) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

God does not call us to be zombies, but rather men and women who having weighed the evidence of His character, have chosen to trust Him in all of our affairs, rather than to rely on ourselves. This is what compels us to obey even when God’s instructions do not make sense to us and to follow even when our intellects scream a different path. I believe this is one of the lessons to learn when we read that Jesus said “my food (perhaps even an allusion to the tree can be found here) is to do the Father’s will”. I believe, He is saying, at least in part, that true life is to be found only in a life lived according to God’s guidance. For this reason, He has chosen to subjugate His own understanding to the Father’s. This is the true meaning of obedience and the reason why it is those that do the will of the Father who will enter the Kingdom. Incidentally, brothers, this is a key reason, why we as Father-types need to be trustworthy when it comes to our kids; we are their first image of what our heavenly Father is like.

Finally, Jesus as a human must have inherited Adam’s propensity to think. If so, it is probable that His intellect would have suggested paths different from what the Father had chosen for Him. Jesus was no “zombie”. His free choice is evident when we recall His prayer in the garden. The words that He spoke during that anguished hour prior to His arrest and torture are especially telling. He said in essence, I would like to be spared what is to come (indeed my whole human experience—a fear of pain and separation from you—demand that I take a different course), but not as I will but as You will. His every human instinct must have screamed the ensuing events were not going to be pleasant—far from it—yet He knew His Father’s heart and intellect were unmatched. Yes, God is good and wise, so He trusted.

Trust is not blind; it is based on evidence—even if that evidence is one that is not directly experiential but instead impressed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. To obey we need to ask the Holy Spirit to convince us deep in our own spirits and in our minds, that our God is good, wanting the best for us. That best is only to be found in submission to His expressed will for our lives even if we don’t always fully understand it.

Today, as through the ages, we are faced with this fundamental choice; to eat from the tree of our intellects and emotions or to eat from the tree of obedience—the one that implores us to subjugate our thoughts, emotions, and wills to that of our all wise and all loving Father. For it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in and through me”, is a paraphrase of how Paul puts these truths. We do well to do the same. - G Columbus

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Genesis 3, recap

I have a few more reflections on the Genesis 3. I think we suffer a little from the translation of words like "tree of knowledge". In our mind that implies a tree whose fruit would provide knowledge, and after all, why not? Knowledge is good. But it seems to me you could have called the tree anything at all, the major point being, as G. Columbus has suggested in his posts, that it was a prohibited tree, whereas the tree of life represented the prescribed tree. So Adam and Eve were perhaps as guilty for eating of the bad tree as they were for not eating the good one.

The two trees in the garden seem to represent choices that God gave Adam, similar to choices that He gave Israel through Moses, and then through Joshua, Samuel, etc. These are the same choices that John the Baptist indicated, and which Jesus preached "come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden...." and the same invitation that the Spirit and the Bride continue to issue. Every time we hear an invitation to respond to God, we are essentially being given a choice between the "tree of life" and the tree of knowledge- you could call the latter the "tree of death", as in the tree which eating it leads to death.

I see the contrasting choices as follows; the prescribed (tree of life; living water; bread of life; blood of Christ; eternal life) versus the proscribed, (tree of knowledge; guilt; death), the preferred versus the prohibited, the proffered versus the protected, the provided versus the prevented, the pull towards Him versus the push away from Him.

Now it was the serpent that drew Eve's attention to the tree of death, and sowed the doubt, but in Adam's part of the temptation the serpent doesn't even appear to have been there. Nor when Cain slew Abel, which is perhaps the next major sin recorded in that time frame. Perhaps, mere speculation here, even without the serpent, Adam or Eve would have wondered there and have to confront the same questions eventually. It seems to me that the role of the serpent in this play was as a spoiler of God's paradise, in the same way that he tempted Judas.

So yes, the serpent is the devil, Satan, the great tempter, but our own responsibility is tremendous. "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by HIS OWN lusts, and lusts, when they have matured, ....bring death" How similar is that to Eve's own "and when she saw that the tree was delightful, attractive, and that eating it would give her something God had withheld (translated knowledge)...she took of the fruit, and ate."

To summarize, I agree that the devil is the one who brings temptation, especially when it involves deception (he is a good liar). But our moral responsibility is still 100%, because we are still the ones who make the choice between the prescribed and the proscribed. We have to remember there are some sins, (and they are among the worst, where there is no overt satanic deception involved; i.e., sins in which the perpetrator is very much aware of what they are doing and its consequences, but chooses to do them.

Incidentally, one take on why the word "knowledge" as applied to the tree could mean knowledge in the bad sense, is the way in which the desire for knowledge represents a decision for self determination. The "give me a conscience and I will decide in myself how to live". I think that is why statements like "each man did what was right in his own eyes" are really describing sinful states. I believe that is why Paul says that with knowledge (of the law) came consciousness of sin. It is not that when know the Ten Commandments then we become sinners, but rather the state in which he tried to know the Law and then decide things for himself was a sinful state.

One more thing, in popular drama, good and bad are presented like opposing FORCES. A good power and a bad power and that is the way Hollywood sees it in that genre of movies from the old Dracula series, the Exorcist, the Omen, and Matrix; even to some extent in the Lord of the Rings. However the real moral battle is not one of good force against bad; there is no comparison there, because God is infinitely more powerful than Satan, but rather between good choice and bad choice. I think the one story that comes closest to getting it is the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I meant this to be very short but I got carried away. - Calorius

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