Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Psychology of Adam and Eve, a tough question

Not long ago I was thinking about one of the problems that exist when we hold to a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account. We normally think of these as the physical problem with the creation account, such as what was light on the first day, or how could it be that the sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day. Those are of course large problems for a literal view of the Genesis creation account but there is another science which comes into play in the story. A somewhat softer science but still a very important consideration; that is the psychology of the first humans.

We have for quite some time now as a culture realized that human beings need time to develop reasoning skills. It is of course not just time that is needed it is experience and knowledge of life that take up that time till a human being is thought of as a responsible person. We have in America set that time frame as 18 years and then the person is classed as an adult. Some countries my have less, some more. The Jews have a tradition of a boy moving into manhood at age 12. The different ages for the acceptance of the age of reason my vary and they may be somewhat arbitrary but they have a good number of years of life experience and learning in common before the person is classed among those called of the age of reason or adults or independently  responsible individuals.

Now back to the creation story. Man, Adam and Eve in the story were created. What was their psychological level of maturity? Those years of experiences that humans go through to reach the age of reason were not there for Adam and Eve. Yet the greatest test of their loyalty was placed upon their inexperienced shoulders. But of course we don’t know what level of experience they had perhaps experiences were implanted in their minds. Surely they were not created as adult sized infants. After all the in the story they seem to be able to walk and talk and carry on conversations, something that normally requires years of training and experience before the average child becomes proficient.

But that is a problem when we are about to test someone…because if God is going to test them and God is the one that gave them the knowledge or artificial experience He is not really testing them but testing the information He implanted into them. Now of course if God did not give them any knowledge or experiences then they were in no ways capable of understanding their world at all and their lives for at least a few years would be filled with learning the very basics of life. Perhaps God would have been their instructor during these first years of life but we really have no idea because the story does not say anything about the origins of their knowledge and experiences. But most anyway you look at it if you delve into their psychology they were either on their own and very immature and inexperienced or they were implanted with knowledge and experience or they were trained by God.

If they were trained by God or God implanted the knowledge into them then the fault lies as much or more with God as with Adam or Eve if they fail the test God lays out for them. If they were simply unknowledgeable and inexperienced then the fault lies entirely with God for placing them in a situation that they could not hope to function as individually responsible people. The idea of God plunging the entire world into sin because of the choices of two totally inadequately knowledgeable people would make God out to be entirely insensitive and cruel. 

It seems to me that just on the psychology of the situation it is entirely impossible to accept the story as literal. Because it would destroy the whole idea of God before it even builds up the idea of God. At least to the modern mind, though to the ancients it seems that they had no real need for their gods to behave properly or intelligently or fairly even, just read the stories of the gods of the nations around Israel to see that for yourself. The question we have to ask is; do we have to ignore what we know to accept and ancient story or does the story have uses or interpretations that work beyond the realm of ancient understandings. If we believe in progressive revelation of God then we don’t have to accept the literal story and we don’t have to pretend that what does not make sense makes perfect sense. Instead we can apply what our knowledge and experience adds to the understanding and the methods we use to interpret the Biblical texts.

But if you choose not to go there, and choose to believe in the literal story, do you have an answer for the psychological development of Adam and Eve? I would love to hear some conjectures on that idea.

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