Several of the recent Adult Bible Study Guides seem to revisit the same stories and texts. The year started with a focus on the book of Hebrews. Then a few months later while learning about the crucibles of life, we again spent a week going over the same texts and concepts. This week, we explore the story of the fall. About six months ago on April 2, 2022, we read this about Genesis 2 and 3:
Unfortunately, in deciding between the two conflicting statements, Eve ignored three basic principles: (1) human reason is not always the safest way to evaluate spiritual matters; (2) the Word of God can appear to be illogical and senseless to us, but it is always right and trustworthy; and (3) there are things that are not evil or wrong in themselves, but God has chosen them as tests of obedience.
It’s this sort of nonsense (don’t think, trust us, we’re always right) that convinced me never to take anything in the ABSG seriously, and confirmed me in my decision to pull my children away from the organised church. The quarterly is promoting cult-like blind obedience.
So much of this thinking deserve public discussion in front of members as well as pastors. To begin with, the effort to do a false either-or needs to be demolished. It is not a specific revelation in the text vs. the reader’s logic that is the current issue; nor is it persuasive to say that logic in “Eve” (please) overcame the clear command of God. It is not the reader (singular) by the Spirit-guided community that decides in prayer and study. It is not church leadership or even its theologians alone, but an informed community as a whole with the help of its best-informed scholars and leaders.
On “Eve:” One can find many possible lessons in the events recorded in Genesis. First, besides “God” and “Adam,” the serpent is her first encounter with a mind or a voice that makes sense. She was not prepared for that anymore than a child is enticed or manipulated to believe that something new and exciting cannot be THAT dangerous. Innocence and immaturity, perhaps even a naïveté, were the “Achilles heel” here–not a "trust in logic over God’s warning. The “mystery of evil” is not solved by superficiality. Was Eve really a “rebel” in the sense EGW accused Lucifer of being? Was Adam? The narrative is profound and subtle and full of subterranean meanings. Let’s not trivialize it with sophomoric explanations,
When I was a University freshman in Australia I attended the Queensland Conference camp meeting. The preacher for the Divine Service was a visitor from the GC. I was shocked when he proclaimed that since Paul wrote “as in Adam all die”, this means that if Adam had not joined Eve in her sin, God could have simply zapped and replaced her, and the human race would still have been sinless. What Eve did was not significant except for her drawing of the man into her sin with her. When I recalled this recently, and told this story in the Sabbath School class I attend (which does not follow the Quarterly) , I discovered that this interpretation was used by Ellen White. Are there shades of this interpretation in this lesson?
Humans only have human reasoning. If they were horses I suppose they could use horse sense, but they are not. That reasoning can accept things without question or it can work to understand deeper. Even praying for the Holy Spirit doesn’t change humans from human to divine. At best it allows for some inspired insight for the human reasoning to work on.
God did not blame Eve for Adam’s choice to eat the fruit and there are no scriptures in Genesis 3 about Eve wrongly leaving Adam’s side or any mention of rational thinking being the problem.
Eve possessed higher intelligence than her descendants, and yet it seems that she is often smugly portrayed as a simple minded woman who believed an ‘obvious’ deception in Genesis 3.
Eve was deceived by a fallen angel with higher dimensional brilliance and she was probably flabbergasted to see an animal talk as most sane people would be. The very fact that the animal (reptile) talked would seem as very convincing proof that the fruit had properties that elevated the consciousness of the partaker of the fruit as was mentioned in the discourse in Genesis 3. Why would Eve suspect that something evil would be inside the reptile when everything God made was good?
Adam on the other hand made the wrong choice seemingly from an emotional place then seemed to try to blame Eve for it. God speaks to Adam in Genesis 3:17. Adam listened to his wife and ate the fruit. The misogynist mindset purports that Adam listening to his wife is as much a sin as eating the fruit. Adam could have listened to his wife and not eaten the fruit. Adam’s choice to eat the fruit was his alone and has nothing to do with Eve being a woman.
The fallen Adam and Eve quickly learned the hard lessons of personal accountability and suffered the consequences of the fall- that’s consequences, not punishment. Now, generations later in this sinful world, women are often considered as inferior by some men (and women) and are unfairly treated and blamed.
Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” NIV
Paul likely misinterpreted the Genesis 3 legend. The tale is less about sin and disobedience than it is about “coming of age”. In Genesis the gods know good and evil. The gods commanded the mortals not to know good and evil. The serpent offers Eve a choice - continue in ignorant bliss, or become like the gods and know good and evil. Eve chose knowledge over ignorance, without knowing the consequences. Adam chose knowledge over ignorance, knowing the consequences. The gods acknowledge that man has become like them, knowing good and evil.
It’s like the child who has his every need taken care of by his parents. The child is shielded from the realities of the world. At some point though the child wishes to be an adult, and wishes to become responsible for himself. However, the child must sacrifice the safety and comfort of the parental home to fully become an adult. This isn’t rebellion by the child - it is simply growing up. The child is then no longer shielded, he is confronted with good and evil, he must toil for his daily keep, he will suffer pain, struggle and loss.
Paul rejects the humanity of the human race and holds up the age of innocence and ignorance as the ideal. He pines for a return to such age of innocence and ignorance. Paul writes of imperfect human nature as something to be ashamed of, something to be overcome. Humanity is dirty to Paul, and the embrace of human nature by the mythical Adam and Eve is a great evil in the theology and soteriology of Paul.
Jesus on the other hand seems to embraces more fully the human condition. Unless I missed something, Jesus never condemns men and women simply for being human.
I figured “there are things that are not evil or wrong in themselves, but God has chosen them as tests of obedience” was a paraphrase. But no, it’s right there in the lesson. I would have loved to see their real-life examples, or how to identify such things, but of course they didn’t go into detail. (It’s diet, isn’t it? It’s always diet.) Much fear, always be afraid, seems to be the mantra.
“Logic and education is evil because you’re too immoral to think, also please support our SDA schools” is quite the bit of cognitive dissonance.
This is very much the back story of Buddha, who born a prince was shield from poverty, hardship and danger. The story goes he wanted to see and understand the world so he snuck out of the palace. What he saw affected him and was the seed for the philosophy of Buddhism.
Coming of age, growing up, maturing is a part of life. It shapes us into who we are. We don’t know how long A&E were in the garden. We don’t know what went down with the serpent, only the stories passed down. The facts are shrouded in mystery. What we do know is that the story is shaped to give a particular impression to support the culture and world view of ancient Israel.
How? If the subject here is the lesson, why are there no examples of how the lesson blames Eve for using her brain? Is there some kind of thinking that Eve did not use her brain? What does that even mean was she just jabbering away in the conversation with the serpent? Was she using her vast knowledge of logic? Did she say “here is a serpent and it talks, no other animals talk I better listen to it.” Logic it would seem would say, I should talk to someone about this, Did God make other talking animals? Maybe I should ask God about this thing. I can’t see a lot of real logic involved by anyone here except for the serpent who was mixing truth and error quite smoothly, though for Eve there would be no way for her to know what part was error. Which is why the only logical thing to do would be seek more information from God (the only one that wasn’t created yesterday). Probably the biggest sin here is not looking for a reasonable answer and instead assuming that they knew way more than they did. There are a lot of ways one can interpret this story. The one interpretation I don’t think works at all is that Eve was being logical, the idea that anyone would expect a newly created person with very limited experience to be logical seems a huge stretch.
Given that no human has infinite intellect nor a comprehensive set of facts, and that the best any of us can muster is a “best guess” about the fundamental nature of reality, the study guide is correct in its assertion that human logic is unreliable.
But what does it have to offer as alternative?
The Bible? Adventism? Aesthetics? The study guide itself?
Clearly all of these are potentially corrupted by the fact that they are also the product of human reasoning.
So as the old TV ad asked, “What’s a mother to do?”
Of course, we cannot say for certain, but is it possible that the most satisfying suggestion (if one illogically opts for the “to be” response to the most basic question) is that one live subjectively and according to the aesthetics of one’s own conscience, a consciousness that exists outside of, and inaccessible to logic?
If so, and one accepts that the meaning of life is essentially a matter of opinion, can the rules of logic then be seen as the serpent and god both saw them; that is, as tools to be used in one’s efforts to achieve disparate, but nonetheless compelling, desires?
This may have been a source for the quote about replacing Eve.
“Love, gratitude, loyalty to the Creator—all were overborne by love to Eve. She was a part of himself, and he could not endure the thought of separation. He did not realize that the same Infinite Power who had from the dust of the earth created him, a living, beautiful form, and had in love given him a companion, could supply her place.” PP 56.2
We are dealing with a narrative to explain the origins of evil. It is of necessity a “mystery” and needs to be seen as having both intended and unintended meanings in its tale and in its participants. We diminish it by seeing only its “literal” surface.
Human reasoning is not always a matter of untrustworthy opinion, especially when it is clearly the explanation that best fits the “facts” we seek to explain. There seems to be a “postmodern” conviction that all we have are our opinions; hence, there are no moral “facts,” we cannot trust what we are told by the media–it is all bunk–; etc. Not true, but it takes time and persistence to peel away the preconceived ideas and falsehoods that abound.
Your contrast between deception and logic is important.
I noticed the same recently in the Temptation of Christ. The claims made to Jesus by the devil were all false and reflect a distorted picture of God, but too often we read that story as if those claims were logical.