Another Look at Eden

Photo Credit: https://natashabou.com/

The Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve are often idealized. They are seen with all the glory of heavenly perfection by much of Western Christianity. However, there are difficulties to seeing Eden as a perfect place as well as seeing Adam and Eve as being perfectly made. If everything was perfect, how does sin enter in? If Eden was perfect, how could there be a tempter? If Adam and Eve were perfect, how could they give into the temptation? Wouldn’t perfect people lack the desire for evil? I think there is a better way of thinking about Eden.   

Would it intrigue you to learn that the Christian church has not always thought Eden was perfect? Instead, Eden was looked at as simple, primitive, and good. The book of Genesis itself never calls the Garden perfect. It only says it was “good.”

The whole narrative of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is built on the idea of progress. God progresses his primitive creation through the stages (“Days” 1-6) into the shape He desires. This means that the creation did not start off in finished perfection. Let’s take a quick tour.

On “Day” one, there are no humans, no plants; nothing but light. “Day” two comes along, and God furnished his primitive project by adding the atmosphere. On the third “Day” He adds dry land and water. On this same “Day,” he had the “earth bring forth vegetation” (Genesis 1:11).   

“Day” 4 continues with the growth of the universe. “Day” 5 God says, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.” Again, we have this idea of “bring forth” present. In other words, God let the creation do the work. The water, with God’s supervening activity, brought forth the creatures of the sea. “Day” 6, after the sea creatures developed, God says the same about the creatures on land, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” Whether over a short or long period of time, this creative activity is not in an instant.  

After much progress (“Days” 1-6) we arrive at the peak of God’s developmental activity, humans.  We are not told ‘how’ God did this, but rather just that he did (Genesis 1:27). Chapter 2 gives us a few more details. In Genesis 2:5, it says, “And the trees were not yet on the earth, and every herb of the field had not yet sprung up; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground. In fact, in 2:6 we learn that a spring (or mist) watered the land to help bring forth living things. These verses carry the implication that after God brings forth matter, he works with it (sea, land, etc) to bring about more of His creation.

This brings us back to humanity. In 2:7 we are told that “God formed Adam from the soil (or dust) of the earth.” In 2:8 we learn that God “planted a garden.” The ideas of “forming” and “planting” are not instantaneous. Time and formation are involved.

 We have such incredible imaging tools today that it is easy to distort the primitive picture of creation that Genesis originally gave. Instead of every part of creation popping up as if God used a magic wand, we see His more creative and continual power which forms and shapes the natural elements, and even lets the creation participate in furthering new life through time.

And Sin?

I said earlier that a “perfect” garden with “perfect” humans creates some difficulties on the subject of sin. If instead of “perfect” we have a primitive garden with early and simple people, then we can postulate that God clearly knew they were going to sin. God knew humans would sin. By definition they are imperfect. Thus, when Adam and Eve sinned, they could not disrupt God’s plan. Any plan that included humans, would include their weaknesses too. Yet, God used the continual straying of human nature to begin his maturation process. This is not just of the physical creation. It includes the whole human person. God knew from the very beginning he was going to mature humanity to the point where they could taste of the ‘tree of life’ who is Jesus Christ the Lord.



All The Truth

One’s heart and soul desire truth for the order, clarity, and beauty it offers. Truth is desirable, for an accepted lie makes a fool. Since false options are ever present, truth is admirable since it holds its own in any arena. Most of us would not know it though, for given the positions people hold about liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious, Protestant, Catholic, and more, we remain without ears. Bias causes deafness.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen an expert interviewed on television only to have the commentator conclude by saying, “That cannot be true because they are a ________.” You fill in the blank. Certainly, we are well aware of other’s biases, but lack the reflection to label our own. Questioning experts is not the problem. Having no alternative intelligence to offer is. Let’s check ourselves. When is the last time you took intentional time to openly hear the other side of a debate?

A Catholic may say, “Well we cannot trust them because they are Protestant.” On the other side, many Protestants practically hold out a cross to anything called Catholic. In a different sector, so many American Christians look at the whole scientific enterprise with suspicion and caution because they think one theory poison’s the well. Whatever my own view on the subject of evolution, I am getting tired of correcting Christians who think the theory teaches we came from apes. It never has! On the reverse, some outspoken scientists act as if no religious person could ever be in line with the modern science and still believe in God. Strange fictions indeed.

The danger of deafness when it comes to politics, religion, or science is the soon coming conspiracy theories it breeds. No solid research, just the rumor mill. Instead of conjuring up conspiracy theories from our ignorance, we could adopt a different view about truth. All truth is beneficial, all truth is admirable, wherever it is found. With a dictum like this in mind, we have only begun our wildest adventures.

For instance, I am not Catholic in the way most people understand the term, but if the Pope or a local priest speaks the truth, then it would be silly to oppose it simply because of where it came from. I sure hope they would do the same when listening to me as a Pastor. Continuing on, if an atheist scientist discovers a new planet, it would be silly of me to think that it must be false simply because of its source. We do ourselves a disservice when we reject truth simply because of where it comes from. Will others adopt our faith if we misunderstand the basics of the natural world? Will others adopt our political views or scientific understandings if we cannot see truth that is right in front of our eyes elsewhere? It certainly cannot help our causes.

With any adventure, danger is ever present. Let’s conclude with a nominal danger about this approach. We might begin with CAUTION; THIS APPROACH WILL CAUSE DISRUPTION TO THE SMALL WORLDS OF BIAS WE PREVIOUSLY HUNG OUT IN. A disruption we all could use.