July 12, 2009

Adam's Transgression

There are aspects of the biblical account of Adam’s transgression that I’ve always found disturbing, but never heard addressed—never, that is, except once in a youth Sunday School class that I attended thirty years ago.

The teacher, Sister Brownlee, had handed out Bibles and asked us to take turns reading the story of Adam and Eve. You’re familiar, no doubt, with the account. It tells of how God gave His first human creations a fertile garden and only two conditions regarding its use. First, He told them to multiply and replenish the earth. Second, He forbade them to eat a certain fruit, even warned them not to touch the tree bearing it or they would die. Though God’s mandate was clear, Satan—disguised as a serpent—slithered into Eden’s tranquility and tempted Adam and Eve to break that important second commandment.

He told them, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” In the end, the temptation was more than Adam and Eve could ignore.

Of that day the Bible says:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

Sister Brownlee asked us to consider the charity of our Creator. Adam and Eve had everything they needed, but do you see what they did? They stole from the source of their good fortune. She seemed ready to complete the thought and offer a comparison to our own lives, to say that God has given us much, yet we turn on Him in disobedience. Before she could do so, I raised my hand.

“God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit,” I said, “but they didn’t. Why is that? Was God just bluffing to make His children obey?”

Today, the question still seems like a good one to me, but by Sister Brownlee’s reaction, it was clear that I’d treaded into sensitive theological territory. Perhaps she thought I was accusing God of lying. “God speaks only the truth,” she said, frowning. “In a way, Adam and Eve did die because their offense robbed them of life with God. They became sinful and unworthy of His spirit. They were so guilt-ridden that they hid themselves from their Creator. The real liar was the serpent, Lucifer, who convinced Adam and Eve to transgress.”

It occurred to me as I pondered Sister Brownlee’s answer that it hadn’t really addressed my question. In fact, if anything, it had only suggested other questions that I couldn’t wait to ask. Without raising a hand, I said, “The serpent told Adam and Eve that they would learn the difference between good and evil, and that happened. Their eyes were opened. The Bible says so. The serpent led them to knowledge—a knowledge God seemed happy to keep from them. Why is that?”

There was a nervous twitter in the class, but Sister Brownlee forced herself to smile and explained. “Your confusion is understandable,” she said, “but this is an example of how the devil uses half-truths to confuse people. That’s why we need faith to keep from being deceived.”

Suddenly a thought entered my head, like traffic noise through a thin wall. At first I tried to ignore it, but it got my attention. Sister Brownlee had been dealt a question for which there was no answer, but she wouldn’t admit to the deficiency. Instead, she used the same wedge that has separated humankind from a great deal of worthwhile inquiry: the admonition to accept without questions. I knew even then that logic leads to intellectual canyons into which we must take a leap of faith. Yet our teacher had couched that leap in terms of truth and that wasn’t right, even if she could create an ignorant bliss by doing so.

But I digress. For those of you who believe the Bible to be the unadulterated word of God, let me reiterate the two questions:
  1. Why did God warn Adam and Eve of a consequence that ultimately did not occur?
  2. Why did God seem to want Adam and Eve to remain ignorant? (Not until they ate the forbidden fruit were their eyes opened, which was exactly what the serpent promised would happen).


Anonymous said...

Sister Brownlee seems to be the typical blind follower.

So i'll answer the questions that you had which Brownlee was too ignorant to understand.

First, i ask both you and Bronwlee, and any others out there, etc...to research as much as possible about everything relating to your questions. And you'll be surprised to find answers.

Ok, so onto Adam and Eve and God and Mr.serpent AKA Satan, and their little tale in the Garden of Eden...

Adam and Eve were at first like simple organisms. They might have done lots of things, but they lacked a sense of what right or wrong was. In fact, based on both proof, and the fact that such claim doesn't violate scripture when fitted in appropriately, i personally believe that Adam and Eve were the first sapient beings, but not the first members of the species Homo Sapiens. They had parents which probably evolved from whatever they evolved from. Extremists may say that this isn't the case, because the scripture clearly states that God fashioned the man out of the earth, thus making him a golem of some sort, and that Eve was fashioned from a rib. But that's not true, because later we see that such was meant to be metaphorical: Adam was "made of the soil" in the idea that his body was composed of earthly elements, and that later his body would also return to the soil as decomposed matter. And Eve was "made from the flesh of Adam" in the sense that both are incomplete without the other, and the scripture itself addresses this by saying that the two will unify and become of "one flesh", such act is best known as a union between a man and woman, an act of marriage.

When God does his stuff, he happens to have "hidden" reasons which he later reveals. A wonderful example is when he asked Abraham to kill his son Isaac, telling him it must be as sacrifice. Then it turns out it was all just a lie, a test to see if Abraham was faithful in his lord.

Similarly, God purposely added the tree bearing the fruit of right and wrong in the garden because he wanted Adam and Eve to eat it. And how could he accomplish this? Well, God supp0osedly is omniscient, and thus he knows the minds and hearts of all, that includes Satan too. Satan would have gone against God, and thus if God had made the law of making Adam and Eve purposely eat the fruit, then Satan would have, by nature, gone against God's plan, and thus Adam and Eve wouldn't have gained sapience. So even Satan himself plays as a little token on God's game. It seems horribly cruel to most of us, to eventually realize that things like death and sufferings are meant to happen, and that evil was also meant to occur, all because God wished to add a little flavor to the game of life. Without it, then the results would be the lack of free will, which would have obviously made our lives robotic and lacking much purpose, and i doubt that God would create little robotic beings with no purpose just because.

*continued in next post*

Anonymous said...

*continued from last post*

So here's the thing: God played reverse psychology on Satan, and used him to achieve his goal, which was for Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit. This allowed them to learn of what sin was, which was actually the whole purpose of God's plan, after all...without that knowledge, we would be like infants, and would all reach Heaven immediately, which is basically as umpurposeful as being created with no free will.

Now that you know why God planted the tree, why he made a reverse psychology version of an order which he knew would be broken thanks to Satan, and why we are not umpurposeful in this game of life.

Now to answer your question about partakers of the fruit dying in that very day:

I have two answers, one was taught to me once, the other is my own alternative. The former has to do with the idea that to God, a day is over a thousand years. Adam reached around halfway into his 9th century before passing away, all after the partaking of the fruit. And no human has reached a lifespan of a thousand years while possessing an earthly, non-resurrected body.

The latter has to do with Hebrew, and the fact that "day" can mean "epoch", just like how "world" can mean "land". Using the "epoch" definition, we also greatly validate the creation tale, because the idea of each "day" being 24 hours long, or even a thousand years long, seems rather impossible with all the scientific proof out there. Adam didn't last an epoch. We are still technically in an epoch that started with the end of major creations around the 6th epoch, that means that we are still in that period of a "7th epoch", in which God supposedly rested. Maybe we're in an eight epoch, but 6000 years is rather small when compared to the millions of years that each of the other epoch's span of time lasted.

So Adam did die on "the day he partook of the fruit", and whether it meant in that millennium or epoch, either way it was true.