Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Paradise Lost Lesson 4

Paradise Lost Lesson 4

It is evident from the pace set by the lesson Study guide that the authors have no intention of really studying the subject of Genesis. For this week the lesson goes from the introduction of the cunning serpent to the murder of Abel. Instead of studying, the lesson wants only to emphasize the traditional views of the SDA church’s understanding of Genesis. This is one of the big problems with the Adventist church today, as a church we have assumed that our traditions are truth and instead of critically looking at the Biblical stories we use the Bible only to reinforce our presumed beliefs.

Take for instance this lesson. What in the world does it mean that the serpent was the most cunning of animals? Could the serpent sneak up on a carrot better then a rabbit? Or take for instance another part of the story. What does God mean by saying that man would die on the day he eats of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Bible does not record anyone dying on that day and though it is often assumed by the traditionalists, there is no concept of dying spiritually in the Old Testament. Even though many will say they died a spiritual death, what do they mean by that term? You would think that one could not get more fundamental to the story then looking at the above questions particularly the second question, yet the lesson ignores it.

When listening to the Sabbath School classes that are available online it is amazing to hear all the speculative theology they throw around only they really don't class it as speculative they class it as truth because it was revealed to them by the 19 century prophet. In at least two of the classes, those done by Tim Jennings’s and Jonathan Gallagher, their first two classes talked more about Satan then God. And here we are only now talking about chapter 3 where it is at least somewhat reasonable to mention Satan in the mix because of the comment in Revelation about that serpent of old the devil. But Satan was of no interest to the original story, Israel did not see Satan in the story yet they were able to see the foundation of the material.

Now we are all free to speculate. I could speculate that the serpent could talk because all animals could talk. There was nothing abnormal about an animal talking to Eve. I mean the story did not show Eve as even being surprised that the serpent talked. So why is it that the Lesson Study Guide (LSG) will accept some speculation and ignore other speculation? The answer is that the lesson is not using the Bible as their source for the story but using the story as laid out by Ellen White. Of course the LSG is more careful then are the classes heard on the internet. On the internet classes it is clear where their source is from. Take for instance Doug Batchelor's class, at 39 minutes into his lecture Batchelor says:
And then they knew that they were naked well part of the reason their eyes were opened is because after they sinned the glory robes that they wore, they had robes of glory and light, faded.
Before this Batchelor makes fun of those who read the Bible and pay attention to the context of the story, at minute 36:45 we hear:
And then she brought it to her husband with her, some have speculated Adam was standing right there because it says “with her”, it doesn’t mean that. In Hebrew what it means is she brought it to her husband who was with her in the garden, not with her at that location. She was alone during this initial exchange. And it’s just understanding the sentence structure in Hebrew there it does not mean next to her, in it means he was with her in the garden. He ate it along with her, he ate it is all that’s saying. I heard someone preach a whole sermon that Adam was right there next to her when this happened.
It is not from the Bible that most Adventists get their understanding of the events in Genesis but Ellen White and Batchelor are much more straight forward with this fact then the LSG. Of course Batchelor since he unquestioningly follows Ellen White cannot allow for the construction that Adam was with her because Ellen White points out that Eve was violating God’s warning messages to not go anywhere without her husband. Nor does a silent Adam fit in with our societie’s male dominated role. So most Adventists don’t listen to the story but rewrite the story.
The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. (Page 54 Patriarchs and Prophets)
The Robe of light is found there also:

After his transgression Adam at first imagined himself entering upon a higher state of existence. But soon the thought of his sin filled him with terror. The air, which had hitherto been of a mild and uniform temperature, seemed to chill the guilty pair. The love and peace which had been theirs was gone, and in its place they felt a sense of sin, a dread of the future, a nakedness of soul. The robe of light which had enshrouded them, now disappeared, and to supply its place they endeavored to fashion for themselves a covering; for they could not, while unclothed, meet the eye of God and holy angels. ( Page 57)

For those that actually may want to study their Bibles and the story of Creation let’s consider the meaning of the verse which says:

(Gen 2:17 KJV) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Genesis 2:16-17 NIV And the LORD God commanded the man, "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."

This verse has become a pretext for much of the theology in the Christian Church. The NIV is much more accurate for “day” is idiomatic for “when” this is plainly stated in such works as the New English Study Bible. Yet that does not stop many people from creative eisegesis by saying that man Spiritually died on the very day or that God had to offer a sacrifice that very day to demonstrate the death that was necessary to pay the penalty that God had proposed here in the Genesis story. Those views are quite opposed to the actual story whose import is to say that the consequences for the act would be death. If of course God had meant that on that very day they would die, God would be the very first liar. While even the serpent words revealed a suspicion about God hiding good things from His creation the serpent did not lie, maybe partial truth or maybe just statements that reflect on only one meaning, the lies may be only implied.

Often an equally horrible view is present by those who assume that an animal was killed for the covering God made for Adam and Eve. The common SDA view is that God combined the making of clothes for Adam and Eve with the introduction of the Sacrificial system death of an animal; presumably a lamb, a big one apparently. This view makes God the first murderer in man’s history, the first death man saw was from the hand of God. The killing of an innocent animal for nothing other then to cover the shame of the only man and woman in the world. It is no wonder many Christians want to embellish the story. (The word for skins in KJV just means covering it does not necessarily mean and animal was killed to make a garment, skins of course have to be treated before they are made into garments. It seems unlikely that God would kill and animal then perform a miracle to make the skin useable to make clothes. He had just made a whole world out of nothing remember a coat or a robe would be no problem.)

We have intuitively known the story does not work literally for ages, which is why the story has to have so many speculative additions made to it. We try to make the story work just like a historical story, but that was not the intention of the story, and because we redefine the story we lose the meaning of the story. We create pretexts which are then taken into other areas and used to explain things which had nothing to do with the pretext for the pretext was taken out of context.
Christians have continued to add to the story when they assume that God directed a blood sacrifice be offered. So they assume that God rejected Cain’s vegetable matter offering because God had told them what to offer. Yet the story says nothing about what God wanted as an offering. Even afterward God did not say, it was because you did not offer the proscribed offering it was because of Cain’s attitude.

(Gen 4:6-7 NIV) Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

This is how Abel offered a better sacrifice, it was not inhibited by the attitude or resentment which filled Cain and led to the murder of his brother. Think of the meaning of this story as it explains the violence in this world where even brother kills brother as resentment of another leads to hate that leads to violence.

Genesis is foundational but not as history, it is foundational in man’s attempt to understand his place in the world as well as his place with God. It is the introduction that takes us to a people taken out of a land of slavery to become a special people serving a special God.

1 comment:

Al said...

Points well taken. Genesis is foundational in our construction of theology. If you are going to steer the theological argument to one’s desired destination you need to get in early and start turning. Having been around we know how traditional Christianity want us to view God, and that is though the lens of substitution. It behooves these teachers to skim lightly, make their points and move on least someone detect what is going on – the building of a false foundation.