Friday, 18 February 2011

The Fall: Introduction

It is difficult to understand the Christian worldview without an adequate understanding of the Fall of man. Christianity claims to be the true explanation of the universe. It is therefore difficult for anyone to understand the world without an a right knowledge of the Fall.

General revelation reveals we live in a broken world. Physical decay and destruction are illustrative of this. Deterioration of human life and then death itself points to it. Our sense of morality shows us that we are aware their is a right way to live, even if we misunderstand the exact specifics of such morality. Our behaviour and our conscience show us that we are failing to live this morality correctly. While very instructive, this knowledge is extremely limited. We perceive the effects but cannot appreciate why the world is how we perceive it. For this we need special (ie. specific) revelation. We need an observer of the events that led to our current situation. Scripture gives us this revelation. Clues are found thru-out the Bible with a thorough account of the history in the early chapters of Genesis.

Summarising early Genesis: God created the universe and everything in it. Mankind was given dominion over the earth. Everything that existed was good and no sin had entered the world. God created an pleasant environment for people to live in, set up the cultural structure of the family and commanded the man and woman to be obedient to him. Sin entered the angelic domain. An evil creature tempted the woman to disobey God. She disobeyed God as did the man. In response to these actions God announced several curses to the snake and the people which affected the personal world, the physical world, and the spiritual world.

We are told that the man and woman are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Man directly (Gen 1:27) and woman indirectly (Gen 1:26-27, 2:21-23; 1Co 11:3-12). The imago Dei includes at least language: the ability to communicate and the ability to reason. The imago Dei also includes a sense of morality. God gave the man the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, warning it would result in death. Adam heard what God was saying to him, understood the nature of the prohibition, and knew the action was morally wrong. By implication from God's prohibition we surmise Adam had an intellectual understanding of death even though he had no experiential understanding of death.

Concerning the actual Fall Genesis 3 states,
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 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.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband [who was] with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
There are several things in this passage worth noting though I will not comment on further.
  1. The snake tempts the woman not the man.
  2. The snake asks about any tree, not the specific tree.
  3. The woman replies not only were they not to eat it (Gen 3:3), they were not even to touch it.
  4. The temptation includes a lie, "You shall not surely die," and a truth, "You will be like God knowing good and evil." Compare verse 22
  5. Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil."
  6. It is unclear whether the man was with her during this conversation, though possibly not.
Of interest is the temptation is 3 fold
  • 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,...
Some have suggested that all temptations common to man fall into these categories and have suggested that the temptations of Jesus were in the same 3 areas.

Tree was Sin Jesus tempted
good for food lust of the flesh turn stone into bread
a delight to the eyes lust of the eyes gain all the kingdoms of the world
desired to make one wisepride of lifethrow yourself down from the temple
Genesis 3 1 John 2 Luke 4

After eating the fruit their eyes were opened. It is uncertain what this fully means. They clearly knew about obedience prior to the Fall as they were commanded not to eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There must have been a knowledge that to do so was wrong, thus there is an intellectual assent to morality. The knowledge of rightness and wrongness antedates the Fall.

What they gained from eating the fruit was firstly the experience of wrongness. What it felt like to be involved in sin. They were vulnerable in their physical nakedness. The awareness of nakedness is helpful in understanding the change that came about in their thinking at the Fall. Young children do not show an awareness of their nakedness until a certain age. Before such age they can know the difference between having clothes on and not having clothes on, but are unaware of any shameful significance associated with lack of clothing. Pre-Fall the man and woman had this childlike unawareness, though they did not otherwise have childlike intelligence. These facets of our minds are thus separable. The Fall brought a self-awareness that parallels a child's gain in self-awareness. However this self-awareness does not appear to be fully identical to moral knowledge. Adam and Eve both knew what obedience entailed, and children know right and wrong before they feel embarrassed being naked.

In response to their sin God speaks to Adam then pronounces a curse on the snake, the woman, and the man respectively. I would like to comment on this in future posts.

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