Sunday, September 22, 2013

This Grace, This Faith, This Fall

It ALL Must Start with the Fall

Today I watched a rather good movie called "Encounters: Paradise" with my mother. The movie was about how these various characters are having troubles in their lives, troubles ranging from criminal acts to drug abuse to emotional disconnection from their present life, and how Jesus comes into their life literally at a pivotal, watershed moment that WILL reflect in every moment of the rest of their lives. 

It was actually a very good movie and I am glad I watched it because it really brought a clearer understanding to me personally of the problems I perceive in the belief that Jesus died on the cross for all the sins of all men, that there does indeed exist a heaven and a hell, that the sorrow and death and bad things in this world are because of the fall of man, and that no matter how good of a person you were in life (or how bad, perhaps) if you do not believe in Jesus and have Him in your heart when you die you WILL go to a very terrible place.

I was raised Christian. Actually, I was raised very, very strict Christian. Many of my other blogs discuss the things I was taught to believe, and incidentally the things I believed for many years, but here I wish to discuss some of the romanticized notions of salvation through Jesus and the fall of man and why bad things happen...and how they were presented in this movie.

I will very readily admit that there is a very strong appeal to the thought that for all of the things I worry about, all of the things I fear, hope, need, want, love, see, feel, hurt, all of these emotions...for all of these things I experience it sure does sound nice that for all of my failings and imperfections not only can I have immediate help all of the time, every time, but I can also be completely and totally forgiven for everything I have done that is wrong. 

All I have to do is believe. All I have to do is take the free gift.

It is not a free gift. It is a very heavy gift that is wrapped so beautifully that when you first pick it up you see the beautiful wrapping paper and you feel the weight of the gift and you KNOW for certain that you picked the right gift. But unwrap what you were given and what do you see? A list of ideologies, beliefs, myths, stories, fables and the like that you must hold as true in order to partake of the life of the matter.

Have you ever taken the time to look closely at what it is exactly that you are supposed to believe?

The thing that got to me the most in this movie "Encounters: Paradise" is the problem that the character Chris has with Jesus. What is Chris' problem? His 22-year old son died in the Thailand tsunami. Chris is so destroyed and distraught he is disconnected from himself, his wife, and reality. He lives in his pain as though it were the very last thing he has left that will allow his heart to hold onto the memory of his son.

The high scene between Chris and Jesus is when Chris demands to know why his son died? Why did Jesus/God kill this young man of only 22, who was actually studying to become a doctor of divinity in order to help bring people to Jesus? Jesus responds by telling Chris that He created a perfect world without death and disease and all the terrible things that happen be they caused by humans or caused by nature. Then when man ate of the wrong fruit all of that was changed forever and now man is left with the very unhappy parting gift for their disobedience to God: Sin.

Sin is why man is fallen. Sin is man's disobedience to God. Sin is what Jesus died for. Sin is cured, if you will, by the acceptance of Jesus into your heart and your life. This 'fall' that man initiated when he disobeyed God and ate of the wrong tree is the hands-down, number one reason (if not the ONLY reason) why bad things the character Chris' son dying in the tsunami.

Interestingly enough the problems I see with this are not to be found after the 'fall' but before it ever happened and when Adam and Eve were still in the Garden of Eden.

Created in Perfection
So, Genesis 1:26-28, 31 says,

      26 And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
     27 And God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
     28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
     31 And God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The very first verse of Genesis chapter two specifically notes that the heavens and the earth and all their host were finished. And what is finishing something but completing something? And if something is complete does that not intone perfection? Yes, it does. If something is truly complete it exists in a perfected state since any elements absent would by definition render such incomplete.

You know, this is where things just make zero sense to me. None. And from what I have been taught, what I have learned about God is that He is the ABSOLUTE when it comes to perfection, and it is perfection in ALL things at that. If something is perfect it is complete in every element, free from any fault or any defect. From what I read in the Genesis account in the first two chapters it cannot be denied that God did not create a perfect man.

Free Will and the 'Fall' of Man
In this movie when Jesus explains free will as a particular gift from God (and I am totally paraphrasing here) He notes that before bad things happen and before good things happen there is an element that consistently pops up every time without fail: A person or persons make or made a CHOICE or set of CHOICES to do whatever it was they did. No arm twisting, just choice. From that choice a set of consequences will occur and will range anywhere between the very good and the very bad, the joyful and the sorrowful, the loving and the hateful, the diminishing and the increasing, the appreciating and the ungrateful. The utter failures and the sweeping victories. 

In the Garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve specifically to NOT eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and evil, even going so far as to inform the newly created man that if he DID happen to eat the bad fruit he would die. Here is where much of the foundation of Christianity may be found: God created free will and put it in man, God told man what NOT to do, man did exactly what he was instructed NOT to do, man was warned by God and did not listen. Thus, man gets exactly what they bartered for which, of course, is suffering and death and sorrow.
I couldn't disagree more.

Yes, I have heard all of the arguments (both sides) of whether or not God knew man would do what he did, so why didn't God stop him? Then there is the argument that refusal to believe such a story is actual rebellion against God, a remnant of the fallen nature of man that is the eternal gift that keeps giving its unwanted assistance in all things both human and divine lest salvation be sought through Jesus Christ. The surprise here really isn't in the notion that all the sins of man started with eating that bad fruit. It is not the fall itself. It is not the disobedience of man toward God.

It is considering the condition of the mind of man before the fruit was consumed.

Free will is the freedom to make choices that are not controlled, that are completely voluntary. God does not interfere with a human's free will. Here, though, this free will 'choice' that man made, that led to the fall of man and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, is non-existent.

Adam and Eve were never told by God the FULL definition of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What does God say to them? All God says is that you can eat of every tree EXCEPT this tree, and if you do you will die. And what about the serpent who preyed on Eve's innocent ignorance? Did God ever note to Adam and Eve the presence of the serpent and what the serpent's intentions were when it came to God and man? Did God ever tell them that the serpent lies? Even more than that, did Adam and Eve even KNOW what constituted a lie?

Would you agree that a lie is evil? Surely, right? If the truth be the good, then the lie be the evil. But how can Adam and Eve even know that lying is wrong or even that the serpent is lying and definitely in the wrong if they do not know what right and wrong are? Remember, they have not eaten of the bad fruit as of yet, so HOW can they conclude that the fruit is bad, whether or not God gave full instruction, when they do not even have so much as a working knowledge as to what good and evil are?

Adam and Eve would not have known the serpent was lying to them.They had no concepts of right and wrong in relation to choice, let alone ANY similar knowledge. They do not know what consequences are and how unpleasant they can be. God puts in the bad tree, tells man it is bad for him and to not touch it...but then God never tells them about the tree of life?

Other questions that should be considered are:

     1. Genesis 3:6
          Here it says the woman saw the fruit was good for food, delightful. But without the knowledge of good and evil how does she know that doing the opposite of what God instructed was great error?
     2. Adam and Eve did not know anything about good and evil, so how could Eve make the proper assessment of the fruit being good for food WITHOUT the required knowledge?

     3. Genesis 3:3
          Here God informs Adam and Eve that the fruit of the bad tree will kill them if they touch and eat it. They would surely die. But isn't this admonition and threat of punishment not quite true or at the very least dishonest? If Adam and Eve had not yet eaten of the tree of life then clearly they are still mortal. What is God doing when He tells Adam and Eve they will die if they eat the fruit when they are already dying? Yes, I am familiar with the response that God was referring to spiritual death by sin. I don't buy it.
     4.God informs them of the bad tree but does not make a peep about the tree of life? 
     5. He tells them of impending doom and death but never ONCE mentions anything about the fullness in life with love in eternity with Him by eating the good tree? They don't even know it exists.

So here we have man, a new creation, a brand new being who is as innocent as they come and God:

     Does not tell them of the serpent

     Does not tell them of the tree of life or what its purpose is

     Does not explain death which is something they know nothing of

     Does not so much as allow a working knowledge of good and evil or offer examples of such

     Does not inform them of disobedience

Furthermore, AFTER they eat of the bad fruit what happens? Now remember that the bad fruit has immediately turned them into sinners/wrongdoers/the damned, alright? Now I want you to think of their response to God when He was walking in the garden, they are hiding, God asks where they are, and what do they say?

They tell God the truth. They did not lie or make God play twenty questions but simply popped right out with the truth. And other than that time the man exhibits no other unsavory behavior UNTIL the LORD God took it upon Himself to sew the seed of enmity within humanity and THEN man was booted from the garden and his behavior pattern took a real dive.

The bad things that happen in the world have nothing to do with any fall by man, for the truth of the matter is that even after eating the wrong fruit man still took that knowledge of good and evil and used it for GOOD, made a specific decision to use it for good by telling God the truth. 

It must be remembered that free will can only exist without prior causes affecting the choice and without God interfering. But God did interfere because He withheld information. He withheld the truth. He withheld life by NOT telling them of both trees from the get go. He denied them the understanding and because of all of that the choice they made was certainly not an informed choice, but a manipulated choice. 

That purposely manipulated choice, despite the wonderfully colorful ideas and myths and assertions about salvation and sweeping forgiveness and many other things was stripped of its base power the very moment God lied by omission, the very moment God manipulated the situation to guide man to sure and swift failure.

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