Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Fall - Then and Now

For my first real post on this blog, I would like to start with something that I have been thinking quite a bit about over the past week.

This Sunday morning in the youth class, our teacher, Josh, taught on the Fall. Regardless of whether my readers hold a literal or figurative interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, this ancient chapter of the Bible presents a powerful and timeless picture of the human heart. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion both with Josh and at our individual tables. For those who were not there, here is a small part of my notes with some clarification and further explanation.

Genesis 3:1-6 What tactics does the serpent use to tempt Eve? - appeals to the flesh, eyes, desires - challenges God’s character - challenges God’s authority, wisdom. The serpent, who is identified as Satan much later in the Scriptures, used a very basic approach in the deception of Eve. He showed her how pleasant the fruit was physically. (v.6) Surely something so obviously good and attractive can’t be wrong? Perhaps even more persuasive was Satan’s direct assault on God’s character in verses 1 and 4-5. When we cannot trust the personal character of those who have authority over us, where now is the motivation for heartfelt obedience? What did Adam and Eve do wrong? - doubt - desired power - lacked trust, questioned authority - exchanged truth for lie - sought themselves above all.

I am of the opinion that the true sin was not “mere” disobedience. The action of eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was, like all sinful actions, only a symptom of the much greater disease. Adam and Eve could only have disobeyed if they lacked confidence in He to whom they owed their obedience. They valued their wisdom above God’s own. They mistrusted God’s ability to give good gifts to His children. They failed to realize the truth of Isaiah 55:9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

They used their own reason to determine what would be best for themselves and thus said in effect: “I have concluded that I, the creation, am better able to determine for myself what is right and wrong than is my sovereign Creator.” Incredibly, they believed that they were better suited than God to judge right and wrong before they even had the power to know one from the other! How foolish is the human heart! How arrogant! The extreme lack of discretion here would almost be amusing could it not be found in my own heart.

Most people who know me very well know of my frequent references to C.S. Lewis. I have found so much in his work that has strongly shaped and impacted my thinking that I have taken to reading his work almost fanatically. I do not agree with everything he writes; in fact there is much that I wholeheartedly disagree with. But I love his work for the sake of the great good to be found within it. If you follow this blog, be prepared to hear a great deal from our friend Mr. Lewis. My favorite work of fiction is Lewis’ Perelandra, second in his not-so-well-known Space Trilogy. Without going into too much detail, this work is a poignant picture of the fall. It is, as the Narnia books, not an allegory, but a supposal.

The basic premise of the book is this: “Let’s take the first five verses of Genesis 3 and turn it into a novel of several hundred pages. Let’s put it in modern times. And while we’re at it, why don’t we put this story on another planet? Venus will do. And why not send someone from our own world to mediate the interaction between Eve and the Serpent? Finally, must this Eve succumb in the end?”

This book does a fantastic job of analyzing the Biblical narrative from a multitude of perspectives. It shows the temptation in light of the innocent, ignorant Eve. It elaborates on the methods used masterfully by the Devil. It tells the story from the perspective of one who has seen the effects of one Fall in his own world. Finally, it paints a stunningly accurate portrait of just how easily the heart is swayed. Perhaps more than anything, Perelandra revealed to me the similarity between the deception behind the fall of man and the struggles I face in my own life thousands of years later.

How often do I reach out for evil, believing that God is withholding from me some greater good? How often am I tempted to listen to the twisted truth of the Devil, perceiving it through my own corrupted reason as wisdom? How often do I seek fulfillment in other than what God has ordained should be satisfying? When will I cease to see myself as anything other than a fallible human being? When will I finally understand that I cannot begin to comprehend the mind of God?

Once we realize just how much we are like poor, deceived Eve, our confidence in our own wisdom evaporates. At the same time, our utter dependence on an infinitely wise, infinitely knowing, infinitely powerful, and infinitely loving God is reinforced. All truth, all wisdom, all goodness comes from Him alone. Let us live with a renewed confidence that God knows what is good for His children.

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