The class after worship had agreed to consider the topic of sin this morning.
What is it? What do Christians believe about it? That kind of thing.
As providence would have it, our pastor had the task of leading the discussion. He thought it would be a good idea to look at Genesis 1 – 2 – 3 to start out with.
And as soon as the questions started …
[You know the questions. The ones we all have. Why did God make that serpent in the first place? Why did God put that tree there in the middle of the garden in the first place? Doesn’t this mean God made a pretty bad mistake? Or why is it such a bad thing to eat that fruit? Or how can the people know anything about good and evil and what it even means …? All the same questions we all always have …]
… our pastor says: “You know … this story doesn’t seem to answer my questions about “why” very well … it is not clear it’s in here to answer my questions about “why” … but maybe it is in here to lead us to have precisely the kind of conversation we are having now …”
So we had more of that conversation.
What is it about us human beings that inclines us to imagine that doing something God said would be a terrible idea won’t be such a terrible idea after all …
What does that mean about the relationship of humans, and God, and whatever else it is in the picture, something beyond us …
The conversation was interesting.
We still don’t know why. But we know more about one another. That’s worth something.
[We all have our issues. Mine are with the language of “authority,” apparently. I am just not a fan of explaining the story of Genesis 3 as humans’ “challenge” to or “rebellion” against or “usurpation” of God’s authority, despite how popular that way of telling it is. Not that people DON’T challenge or rebel or usurp divine authority, either; I understand that; and not as if I don’t think that’s a bad idea, either; I do. I’m just not convinced that’s what’s going on HERE.
I think it’s more confusing than that. Because … the uncertainty, the other voice, the serpent. And because … of the way we human beings tend hear the language of “authority” and get all confused about that.
If your mom takes a pan out of the oven and tells you “don’t touch that, you’ll burn yourself” and if your older sister says “you won’t, you know, she just thinks you’ll knock it onto the floor, it would totally be OK” and if you listen to your older sister and of course you burn yourself …
Did you do this because you wanted to “rebel” against Mom, because you were chafing at her oppressive authority here, and wanting to be like her?
No, you did it because you were curious, and because you were clueless, and because you thought maybe your sister was right after all, and because you just didn’t know any better more fool you. You weren’t trying to start the Russian Revolution. You were, however, easily misled, since you didn’t really know what was at stake.
Is Mom going to be upset because you “rebelled against her”? Because you “challenged her authority”? Because you “wanted to be Mom”? Is Mom’s main concern here going to be that you didn’t respect her the way you should have?
No, Mom’s’ going to be upset because now your hand is burned.
Of course, if you’d listened to Mom in the first place, none of this would have happened. That was why Mom WANTED you to listen to her – so that you wouldn’t burn your hand. That was the whole point.
Well, that and she actually knows more than you do. And she evidently cares about you more than your sister does.
But now she has to go get the ice. And put your sister in time out.]
Aside from all the other reflection on this text in Biblical studies and the western humanities, there are a few additional thoughts on Genesis 3 on this blog: “Imagination and the Problem of Evil”; “Pre-Rant on Genesis 3; and “Notes on Genesis 3 (Part 1)”.