I was reading some more in Genesis and thinking on the traditional idea of ‘The Fall’ and had some new thoughts. Just to restate what I mean by the traditional idea: Adam and Eve decided to eat an apple after being tempted by Satan disguised as a snake. God had told them not to eat fruit from the particular tree from which this apple came so doing so was a directly disobedient, rebellious, sinful. Because of this, God punished them by removing them from Eden, made Adam do laborious work to survive, and greatly increased (a curious term to me as it indicates that there was already pain involved) childbearing pains for Eve. AND…the remainder of humanity from that point on was damned to hell unless they heard about and accepted Christ and were, therefore, “saved.”
But curious little verse 22 got me thinking: “And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'” So I was wondering, what if this traditional Fall thing stops way short of the full message? When one reads Genesis literally, as the mainstream Christian tradition generally does with the entire Christian bible, I think it might lead to a short-sided interpretation. We get to the part where it looks to us like God is angry and handing out punishments, and we stop, agree that we are doomed, and then go about the saving. But I’m open to the idea that maybe there is more here.
I believe that the Genesis account merges well with the current scientific understanding of evolutionary theory and cosmology and quantum physics when we consider what God did in the final acts of creation to make man “in his image” was instilling human forms with consciousness. One could also refer to this as a soul or spirit or mind (as opposed to just a brain). Full consciousness seems to me to demand complete free will. If it doesn’t, then it seems to me we are not fully in God’s image and instead are just little robots doing what we are programmed to do. Complete free will would be the option to choose the extremes, good vs evil, love vs hate, wise vs foolish, and the list is endless of course. But if we don’t have that, we aren’t fully consciousness and not fully like God. God himself says what being like one of God is at least in part, and it’s “..knowing good and evil.”
God cautions Adam way back in 2:17 that if he eats from the particular forbidden tree, he will die. God doesn’t say that Adam will be damned to hell. God doesn’t say that God will be angry with Adam. God doesn’t say that Adam will then be a worthless worm and that all humanity coming behind will be worthless worms. God doesn’t even say that he will punish Adam. In fact, when Adam does decide to eat, God says that now Adam is “…like one of us.” So I wonder if this choice placed before Adam was the final act of maturity, Adam becoming fully in God’s image, and what comes thereafter are the plain and simple consequences of being a human fully in God’s image in the physical world God created with the physical laws that God set up with the Big Bang. You know, I always thought God was angry when he said this, but now it seems to me that God is just being more matter of fact saying in essence, “Well, I warned you, and you did it anyway. So here’s what goes along with that.” Could this decision on Adam’s part have been the final piece of being in God’s image? I’m not sure, but it’s at least really interesting to consider. After they did it the account even reads that “…their eyes were opened.” That seems good to me. Not evil. That seems conscious.
It’s curious too how the snake really doesn’t deceive Eve. Sure, he encourages her to do what God warned against doing. But what the snake said would be the result of doing it was the truth, they would be like God knowing good and evil. And that’s what God said happened. Look up there at verse 22. It’s right there.
Now I’ve been going through this as if the Adam and Eve story is a literal story, and I don’t think it is. It’s an explanation that was useful to an ancient people for whom it was written way back there and then. But there are timeless truths in it. It’s a God inspired story after all. Trouble is when we think we’ve got that truth locked in and solid and literal because we don’t. And I think the trouble may start when we look at Christ on the cross solely in legal terms, as substitution for our punishment which we deserve because of something we didn’t do and had no part in doing. think that stops way short of all the truth that is there in the crucifixion story too. But when that is where all the focus is, it reaches back to influence all that came before it in a way that maybe wasn’t intended. Because maybe all that happened way back there in Genesis was the final part of maturing into God’s full image. After all, when the only tool you carry is hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.