Tag: the fall


Christian Purpose

What is the purpose of the Christian life?

In teaching worldview, I’m finding that I must clarify my own thinking in many ways —and understanding the purpose of life in Christian terms is one of those problems I’ve encountered where I deeply need to clarify my thinking. There seem to be two obvious answers to the questions of Christian purpose.

The first is to point to a specific goal the believer thinks God has given each of us in life. For instance, to reach a certain number of people, or to build an orphanage, or to start a business, or to win a gold medal. Each of these things are important, of course, but they always leave you thinking there must be something more than accomplishment to the life God wants us to lead.

The second, often a reaction to this view, is that the purpose of the Christian life is to please God, generally tendered through obedience. “I’m just here to please God,” is the often heard refrain. This one actually heard from the mouths of some well respected theologians and pastors.

I think they’re both wrong, and wrong in much the same way.

All of us have a specific place in history, a specific “thing” God has in mind for our lives. But in this sense, God has a purpose for the life of each unbeliever as well as each believer, so it’s hard to say how this could be the purpose of a specifically Christian life. And about pleasing God, or obedience —how do you move from believing we can do nothing to earn our salvation to believing we can make God smile with our obedience? Is God truly impressed when we obey?

Then what is the purpose of the Christian life?

Let’s answer the question with another question: what is the Christian life itself? On what do we base a life in Christ?

On a relationship.

Going back to Genesis 2 and 3, there are three things that God gave man to do.

The first is implied, especially in the effects of the Fall, but it’s clearly there: to have a relationship with God.

The second is even more clear, seen through the lens of husband and wife: to have a relationship with others (family first).

The third is clear, as well: to have a relationship with the world around us.

These three relationships define human existence from the beginning of creation. Each one is different in some ways from the others, and yet each one is the same in some ways. With God our relationship is as to a parent, or creator. With others, our relationship is as to a friend. With the Earth, the World, the reality we find ourselves in, our relationship is as a creator.

The Fall breaks all three of these relationships in some crucial way. Towards God, we become spiritually dead, wayward children who must be brought back into relationship through the Father’s sacrifice. To each other, we become grasping, treating one another as objects to fulfill our desires. To the Earth, we become graspers rather than stewards, users rather than creators.

I’ll leave my thoughts on the implications of this relationship based view of the Christian life ’til tomorrow.


Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin (Part 5)

There is one final component in the consequences of sin we need to understand before we can fully understand sin and it’s impact in our lives. While separation is the main theme in Genesis 3, there is another component we don’t often look at —what is it Adam and Eve gained when they gained “the knowledge of good and evil?”

It’s easy enough to shrug the question off with an easy answer, such as: “Adam and Eve experienced evil, where before they had only known about evil in an intellectual way.” There’s a simple reason this explanation won’t work.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. -Genesis 3:22

Think this through:

  • Adam and Eve knew good and evil through experience —by actually doing evil.
  • Adam and Eve knew evil just as God did.
  • God, therefore, must know evil in the sense of actually doing evil.

Do you see the problem? Clearly the simple explanation won’t work here! So what does this “knowledge of good and evil” really mean? Our problem is we are trapped in a false dichotomy —we think of the word “know” as having two possible meanings. The first is to know something intellectually, and the second is to know something through experience. But there is another meaning of the word “know,” one we use every day, and yet we pass over without thinking about it.

Much of modern engineering is, in fact, based on this third meaning of “know” —only we use the word technique. People who are technical are called knowledge workers because they know how to manipulate ideas and objects to reach a specific outcome. It’s this third sense of know we want here, the sense of knowing how to manipulate things to reach a specific goal.

But what does this have to do with knowing good and evil?

When you turn a piece of wood, or mill a piece of steel, you are conforming the wood or steel to a standard you have set. In fact, any time you manipulate an object, you are bringing that object into conformance with a standard you’ve set.

The word “know” is used in the same sense here. In the Garden, God sets the standards. He chose the order of creation, the creatures that would be created, the creation of Eve, the tress that would be eaten and those that would not. God, as the creator, set the standards.

What Eve did when she ate the apple is this: she set her own standards. In this way, Eve now made herself into a little god. She has decided which of her desires should be fulfilled, and which should not. She “knows” good and evil in the sense that she is now deciding what is good, and what is evil.

And here we find the ultimate separation from God —for there can only be one real standard setter in the universe (whether we like that or not). Our standards can accord with God’s, or they can not. If our standards don’t accord with God’s standards, then we are, in essence, creating our own little idea of good and evil, and attempting to create a little world that matches those standards.

This is the key to understanding the final consequence of sin, that of separation from the Tree of Life. We’ll examine this separation in another line of posts which consider God’s reaction to man’s sin.


On Focus

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -Genesis 2:9

The Garden of Eden teaches us a very important lesson about the focus in our lives. What is the midst, or the center, of the Garden? The Tree of Life. At least that’s what God put there. What a difference a change of perspective makes, though.

“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” -Genesis 3:2-3

Why does Eve say the Tree of Knowledge is in the midst of the Garden, but God says the Tree of Life is there? Are there two trees in the same place? Or are these trees jumping up in the middle of the night and moving around?

No, this is a matter of focus.

Eve’s focus is on what she should not take, and what taking what she should not will get her. God’s focus is on what he is intent on giving, what is best for Adam and Eve, the people he has created.

It’s like that in life —what you focus on becomes, for you, the center. It’s what you think about, it’s what you desire, it’s what you justify to yourself. It’s not that having such a focus is wrong. We should all have a focus in our lives, something we search out, something we try to accomplish, something we try to obtain.

The problem comes when our focus isn’t God’s focus. When there is a mismatch in focus, sin is crouching at the door.

The key to finding the right focus is to understand God, and God’s ways. The key to finding the right focus is to learn to see as God sees, to focus on what God focuses on.

And how can we do these things? By reading God’s Word to learn about him.

It’s all a matter of focus.


Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin (Part 4)

Separation is a major theme of the consequences of sin. Two of the many separations resulting from the fall help define the world we live in.

The first is the separation of the soul from the body —the condition we call physical death.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. -Genesis 3:19

We don’t often think of death in terms of separation, but God created our souls immortal, and our bodies die. Eventually we will receive immortal bodies to match our immortal souls, effectively pulling the sting from death.

This physical death is made permanent, in this world, by God removing our access to the Tree of Life.

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. -Genesis 3:24

Why would God do such a thing? Because there is one final separation, one more parting, that has more impact than any other separation we’ve discussed so far.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. -Genesis 3:8

This final separation is separation from our Creator, God. What is the impact of separation from God?

Spiritual death.

To be spiritually dead is to be in rebellion against that which sustains you, to choose to live while choosing not to connect to the source of all life. It is a desire to be in the power of God while not being in the presence of God.

To return to the Tree of Life —why would God separate man from the Tree of Life? Because to remain eternally in the condition of separation from God is not eternal life, but eternal death —a wracked and horrible condition of eternal suicide, wishing to be separated from the source of life itself, but yet wanting to remain alive.

God, in his mercy, prevented men from being immediately cast into eternal death by preventing Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life. By blocking the path to the Tree of Life, God inserted time into the equation, creating a space for salvation. By allowing spiritual death to result in physical death, God made the way for our resurrection into a permanent abode.


Genesis 3:1-7, The Process of Temptation (Part 3)

Have you ever lost something? Silly question —of course you have.

The real question is, where did you find it? Have you ever noticed that you always find in the “middle” of something else? “I couldn’t find my keys, but then I looked, and there they were in the middle of the desk.” Rarely is the item in the literal middle of wherever we find it. So why do we use this sort of language?

Because whatever it is we’ve lost is in the middle of our thoughts. It’s the one thing we’re thinking about, the one thing we want, so long as we are looking for it. You might see this like taking a picture —not everything can be in focus at the same time. In this case, the word “midst,” really means that which you have in focus. The rest of the picture is there, but it’s out of focus, it’s not what you’re thinking about.

Now, let’s turn to the story of Eve’s temptation and ask what seems like a simple question: Where is the Tree of Knowledge?

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -Genesis 2:9

Was the Tree of Life in the physical center of the Garden? I doubt it. But God, when making the plants, placed the Tree of Life in the center of his attention; he considered the middle of the forest, the one tree worth thinking about. What about Eve?

…but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Genesis 3:3

What does this tell us about Eve’s focus? That she’s focused on the one thing she can’t have. In fact, her focus has turned that which is a fountain of broken relationship with God, and hence a fountain of evil, into something that is good.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise… -Genesis 3:6

Eve focused on sin, and ended up sinning. There is a great lesson here for our lives, of course —the path to walking with God is to turn from thinking about sin, and our desires, and focus instead on simply following God. While much of modern Christian thought seems to be centered around focusing on eliminating evil in our lives or societies, this isn’t the pattern the Scriptures lay down for us.

Our focus should be on making God’s priorities our priorities, and on our relationship with him.

Christians often think about sin, avoiding sin, what sin does in their lives, etc. But we rarely think about the process of sin —how does temptation work? In this series of posts on reading Genesis 3:17 I’m going to talk about four different possible ways to see the process of Eve’s acceptance of Satan’s invitation to sin: obedience/disobedience, challenge to God, need/fulfillment, and the dialectic process.


Genesis 3:1-7, The Process of Temptation (Part 1)

Eve was given a direct commandment, and she disobeyed it. Simple and straightforward. Or is it?

For instance, why shouldn’t they eat of this tree? The commandment seems so arbitrary, doesn’t it? If the commandment is truly arbitrary, then God can be painted as capricious, simply commanding things to test obedience. Does this fit our picture of God? It doesn’t fit mine. How can we resolve this?

Contrary to popular myth, the commandment about the tree wasn’t the only commandment God gave Adam.

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 the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” -Genesis 1:28

Somehow, eating the tree relates to the proper care and control of the Earth in some way —to put it in more modern terms, use and misuse of the resources God has given. The commandment is not arbitrary; God designed the Earth for a purpose (a final end), and he designed man to fit within the overall purpose in a particular way. These commandments can almost be described as an explanation of God’s purpose, and a path on which man must stay to make that end come about.

This is more than simple disobedience, it is a breaking of trust within a relationship. To put it in stronger terms, Eve’s sin wasn’t in eating some unknown fruit, it was in breaking a trusting relationship between creator and creature.

This puts an entirely new spin on the idea of obedience and disobedience, original sin, and the need for salvation.

Christians often think about sin, avoiding sin, what sin does in their lives, etc. But we rarely think about the process of sin —how does temptation work? In this series of posts on reading Genesis 3:17 I’m going to talk about four different possible ways to see the process of Eve’s acceptance of Satan’s invitation to sin: obedience/disobedience, challenge to God, need/fulfillment, and the dialectic process.


Pleasant Deceptions

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
attributed to Abraham Lincoln

I’ve begun to doubt this truism. Why? American politics, as well as politics in many other parts of the world, make me think that there is a way to fool all of the people all of the time. Generally speaking, it’s easy enough, if you keep two rules in mind.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.
attributed to Abraham Lincoln

The first rule is to get people to place more value on relationships with other people than they do the truth, or rather their relationship with God. Someone who is focused on having a good relationship with the people around them will always be easy to fool, because they will bend what they believe in order to maintain the relationship. In other words, they will choose the pleasure of their friends over the truth of God most of the time. The second rule really extends, and dovetails into, the first. People will, generally, allow themselves to be fooled, as long as the experience of being fooled is pleasant.

For instance, you can always talk someone into buying a new house, or car, that’s more expensive than they can afford, as long as you can make the experience pleasant. You can always convince someone to hand their children over to the public school system, as long as you make the experience pleasant. We see this in the current debate over health care “reform.”People support anything that provides pleasure and pleasantness in their lives, especially if they perceive it won’t cost them anything. In the last election altogether here in the US. People voted for their candidates based on the pleasantness of their voice, or of their demeanor, or because of the promises of change and hope, very pleasant concepts and visions of the future. People willingly turn off their brains in order to enjoy, “it’s just mindless entertainment.”In much the same way, people will follow the Antichrist willingly, for pleasure.

I’m not saying, of course, that we shouldn’t have enjoyment in this life. I’m not a Puritan or ascetic, trying to convince you not to have fun, or enjoy life. I’m just pointing out something that seems like it should be obvious, and yet somehow isn’t all the time: being deceived is a pleasing experience. I think this is because we, in our natures, know we are living in a cursed world, a world suffering from the impacts of Adam’s sin. Sometimes, the only way to achieve a little “rest,” is to simply ignore the end result, to ignore the result of sin, which is death. It’s an act of self-deception to ignore the end of these things, by definition, self-deception that leads to pleasure.

What disturbs me is the perfection of deception, and the means of deception, I see in our world. We have raised the ability to deceive ourselves to a rather high degree, to a science, rather than an art. Entertainment has become so good that it’s easy to turn off our minds, to ignore reality. As politics becomes entertainment, and education becomes entertainment (at least for the parents—what better way to make some time for entertainment than sending your children off to a free school/baby sitter for a number of hours every day?), we immerse ourselves in constant self-deceit. Can this be good?


The Meanings of Know, Part 1

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

This single Scripture presents us with a major problem. If Adam did not know the meaning of good and evil, then how could Adam know to obey God? But if Adam already knew it was good to obey God’s commandment, then how could he not know about Good and evil? How do we resolve this problem? The most common solution is to state the meaning of “know” here is experiential, instead of intellectual.To provide an example of the difference, suppose you were considering whether or not to jump into a pool. The problem is, you want to know whether the water is warm or cold before you decide to jump in or not.

There are at least two ways you can know whether the water is warm or cold. You can examine a thermometer that hangs in the pool, and determine, from the reading, whether the water is warm or cold. If the thermometer reads 80 degrees, then the water is warm. If it reads 70 degrees, then the water is cold. An alternate way to find out if the water is warm or cold is to test it. In this case, you might stick your foot into the water. If it feels cold, it must be cold throughout. Likewise, if it feels warm, it must be warm throughout. The first way of knowing is intellectual, while the second is experiential.

So one solution for the problem above is to posit there is Adam and Eve switch from intellectual knowledge to experiential knowledge in relation to sin. Adam and Eve went from knowing good and evil intellectually to knowing it as an experience, because in eating the fruit they experienced evil. This is supported by citing the concept of knowing in marriage.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain… Genesis 4:1

Adam knew Eve before the Fall, of course, so this can’t relate to intellectual knowledge. But he didn’t experience Eve until after the Fall, so this appears to fit the context, and solve the problem. Until we come to this Scripture.

Then the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:22

To hold the theory together, we must now state God knows evil in the same way Adam and Eve do, through experience. That God jumped into the pool of evil, committing evil Himself. Since we know this isn’t possible, the entire theory founders—there must be another solution. There is another meaning of the word “know.” In fact, the answer to this riddle might just be found through a closer examination of two more concepts found in marriage.

But we’ll leave this examination for the next posting. Patience! :-)


Narrative 007: Consequences of the Fall

The slides are up for session 7 of our small group narrative study of the Scriptures. This one covers total depravity and the transmission of sin, two somewhat controversial areas (but I’m no stranger to friendly disagreements!).


Narrative 006: Consequences of the Fall

The topic this time is the first set of consequences of the Fall, focusing on the interaction between God, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. We also examine the judgments and the immediate results of this first sin. The next set of slides will deal with the development of total depravity and the transmission of sin, since these two doctrines are related to the immediate consequences of this first sin.

© Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved