Sunday, January 13, 2008

Genesis 3

The story of the Fall of Man explains how serpents came to have no legs, and talking serpents naturally (post renaissance) indicate a fable. Still, it could be argued that, while we may well be supposed to take the story analogically, those from more primitive cultures were supposed to take it literally—even if the (transcendentally) literal truth can't fit into our languages, maybe something had to be said (cf. talking to our children before they've understood much), e.g. maybe the story served a vital purpose (in primitive societies) by being taken seriously by children—not only did Adam and Eve act like children, the message seems to be (to remember, when your parent isn't there, to avoid what s/he told you to avoid) an important one for children to heed. Now, I know little theology (whence comments are very welcome) but maybe Genesis 3 is (transcendentally) consistent with my own theodicy, as follows.
......Our birth into this world (rather than paradise) would be particularly justifiable (despite the evils of this world) if our being here served some higher purpose, such as a divine investigation (made possible by the logical limits of knowledge) for which we volunteered (completing the justification). Genesis 3 doesn't refer to volunteering but to disobedience, but it might've been unfair to ask us if we wanted to volunteer; who would not, when there was God asking? God might've mentioned the possibility whilst advising against it (in view of the dangers), and maybe the advice was taken at first (in Genesis 2) but advice is only advice—how bad could something growing in the middle of paradise be, and what could the serpent have been (taken to be) about before the Fall? Well, maybe the possibility was independently discovered by Angels who then (worried about the unknown, or excited by it) asked God if it could be investigated, by brave volunteers, within reason... There are, it seems to me, many stories that could be told, consistent with my theodicy and with the words of Genesis; or rather, with some of the words—the earliest account of Eve's creation was, it seems to me, a mistake, as follows.
......It seems that (long before the Great Transformation) women lost their natural socio-political superiority when Polytheistic patriarchies were imposed; and indeed, the story (Gen.2:22) of Woman being created out of Man (rather than vice versa) seems like the sort of thing that new systems do to secure themselves (cf. Christmas)—and that some mistakes have been made (by writers viewing the world through the glasses of their social classes, patriarchally) is indicated by how, even if that account (of Eve's creation) had been correct, Eve would not have sinned because Adam would have had the responsibility (for telling her not to heed the serpent—which in any case could hardly have been both Serpent, whose offspring are our serpents, and Satan, one of God's Angels). So, the account earlier in the chapter (Gen.1:26-7), which seems to have been written half a millenium later and which seems to give men and women a fundamental equality, may therefore be seen as an early correction of that mistake (a sign to take that aspect of Genesis 3 as literally fabulous); coherently with the Bible's progression towards Jesus, and beyond.

8 comments:

jeff said...

Interesting, Enigman.
I believe it is true that God expected our ancestors would see Genesis in a less literal way than we do.
My own beliefs dovetail toward yours in several areas, however, there are some ways that I disagree with you.
If I understand you correctly, your belief is that everything basically happened according to God's plan.
I know a tiny bit (not even enough to name names or cite sources) about some schools of Jewish thought which buy into this idea: God planted the snake in the garden knowing everything that would happen next.
It's harder for me to buy this line of argumentation. One reason is that there seems a real sense of tragedy and loss in the fall from Eden. I have trouble with the idea of God chuckling behind his hand at those wacky mortals. (I hope that's just read as shorthand and not snottiness toward your position.) I also think that the world is a mess and we have this knowledge of that in our hearts, and the "everything is going accoding to plan" scenario flies in the face of this intuition. Finally, I think the idea of Christ as redeemer of the mess that began in the garden is cheapened if he was planned at the beginning of time to step in just as he does; it changes his position from personal rescuer to plot device.
My own read of Genesis:
Humanity had the potential for a special kind of communion with God. Humanity, either individually or collectively, turned this option down. We chose to go our own way, work out for ourselves the difference between good and evil.

Enigman said...

Thanks Jeff, I'm undecided about the snake myself; maybe it symbolises some disposition within us all, but still your point arises: why would God have put such a disposition there? Maybe the snake and the tree were put there to test Adam and Eve, but there is so much wrong with that (e.g. if God made them so that they might choose badly, why be so upset when they do; and why punish all their innocent children).

On my view there is tragedy and loss, in volunteering for a dangerous mission (just as there would be were there a war on), and because of the danger I don't think that things did go perfectly... but the benefit of thinking that much was planned for, that things are going to plan in the broad sense of infinite planning for many contingencies, the benefit is that if things go badly God will know what to do, and be able to do it.

I tend to agree with you about Jesus, which is why I have a problem with the traditional Triume God; but on my view (which is not essential to my theodicy) Jesus was (or had the soul of) God, and arrived as a result of human choices BC.

Incidentally, I'm going to add a third paragraph to the post, about the role of women (as today I've reached chapter 9 of Victoria Harrison's "Religion and Modern Thought")...

jeff said...

Hmmm. Interesting.
One of the reasons I think it's so worthwhile to take the bible really seriously, one of the biggest arguments for God's involvement with that book, is that it really isn't the sort-of book folks would have written on their own.
A case in point: we'd expect that Genesis would pin the fall on women. In fact, I can see that traditionally, Christianity has done that.
But Genesis? Genesis is really clear. Adam was standing right there, next to Eve. This has been conveniently forgotten and overlooked through centuries of sexism and abuse. But it's still in their, waiting for us to discover it.

Enigman said...

Mmm... saying that Eve was innocent because she was subservient is still sexist though, so I've modified that third paragraph slightly... Maybe the Serpent represents an idea that seems good at the time, Eve the part of one that grasps the idea, and Adam the part that decides to see how it develops... Lots of things seem possible, e.g. Adam was told not to eat the Fruit before he (s/he?) became male and female, so Adam may not have been sure that Eve should not eat it (why, he may have thought, would God allow the Serpent to say such things in such a perfect world?), or even that he should not; so how guilty was he? I don't know theology, but the Bible certainly seems inspired; like the best poetry (the sort that seems boring at first :-)

...also said...

...incidentally another problem with the story of the creation of Woman is that (Gen.2:18-20) although God clearly wants Adam to have something like a puppy or a pony, He doesn't seem able to make a suitable animal (and so he makes Woman instead); so, did He not know what Adam would want or need?

Jeff said...

Was it the case that God didn't know what Adam needed? Or was it the case that God needed Adam to go through a process to realize that he is a relational creature?

Frank Creed said...

Enigman--
Genesis is where it's at. A human "fall" in time and space, made of our own free will, changed our relationship with God, with nature, and with ourselves & our neighbors.

So much time and energy is wasted on a young vs old Earth-age, when we're not even told if Eden was on Earth or in this dimension. We were created, screwed up, and forwhatever reason, move forward in two dimensions of time.

If an infinite communicating Creator made us, it's logical to me that He'd have a hand in the basic truths that He wanted communicated.

In the mid-1990s there was a Time magazine cover story that read something like: Men and Women are Different. Must have been a slow news week, eh? Few women or Japanese people play in the NFL not because I'm sexist or racist, but because we really are different. That dosen't mean we're not of equal value. Textbook egalitarianism is Utopian.

Don't forget when God asked Adam: "So, what-up here?", Adam points at Eve and blames her. Real nice move, bone-head.

When we look at the world and see an injustice through our fallen glasses of subjectivity, it is proof that we have moral instinct. It is because of a literal space/ time fall from grace that any particular percieved injustice may or may not be a little bit bent.

Just live the Golden Rule, y'all, and let the chips fall where they may. We'll be judged by our hearts.

"Now go and sin no more."
*sigh* Again today? Yeah, right.

To God be the glory,
Frank Creed--novelist & founder of the Lost Genre Guild
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eureka said...

Don't forget when God asked Adam: "So, what-up here?", Adam points at Eve and blames her. Real nice move, bone-head.

It's worse than that, Frank. Adam blamed God saying "that woman YOU gave me ..."