Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, December 02, 2005  


I sent an opinion piece to First Things and was rejected. I can't seem to stimulate the kind of debate that would be worthwhile for Christianity (I believe.

See what you think of the article.


Mr. Bottum,

I have an opinion piece which examines briefly the situation which Christianity and Judaism face in Biblical and Traditional authority looking at the problem of The Fall and Adam and Eve.

If The Fall is our story of our condition, a very premise of our alienation from God, how do we reconcile that story looked at either literally or metaphorically against our certain knowledge that sin and death existed before man ever appeared.

I believe it opens up a debate that shakes our theology at its core and leads to my piece and title:

God does not write nor institute

“God does not write books,” said Roman Catholic scholar, Raymond Brown. He might have also added, “nor does he establish religions.”

Who does these things, then?

We do. People, that is.

Surely they are inspired people, though?

Certainly, except what do you mean by inspired?

Influenced by God in some mystical/spiritual manner.

Which is?

I don’t know but God does it. It’s a mystery.

Not a lot to hang a book and religion on these days, though, is it?

It is not that rationalism is challenging religion and faith in its desire to destroy the competition, but that rationality within religion and faith demands a new accounting in “justifying the ways of God to men.”

It is not religion and faith that rationality challenges in this case, but theology which grows out of faith and provides a foundation for religion. For faith precedes religion.

In Christianity, it is faith which inspires Peter to declare on Pentecost that Jesus died in atonement for our sins. This is theology before religion. He is offering an explanation for why God did what he did through Jesus whom they have met and know to be God.

How do we know that God really did intend that Jesus act as the sacrifice which reconciles us to him? We have Paul’s Epistles and the book of Acts to tell us, the repetitions of tradition, and the exclamations of saints attesting to the accuracy of the Holy Spirit.

Is that really good enough for us today? Could the people who wrote the Bible be mistaken? Or rather, is it possible that their understanding was partial and limited to the circumstances of their culture?

Let us take up a matter where we are compelled to say the Bible is wrong, a simple matter of Christian and Jewish faith - the story of Adam and Eve.

It is no longer credible for an intelligent and serious man to believe that human existence came into being as Genesis describes it; nor to really postulate that our condition is based upon a Fall from perfection and Edenic life; that we are not what we were meant to be.

We are reasonably certain (beyond a doubt) now that human life proceeded from a long process of animal evolution in which humanity at some point became self-aware in a way different than all other life; but the difference is more in degree than kind for other animals have many of the qualities which we once believed unique to Man such as a moral sense of justice, an ability to deceive or be shamed.

Nevertheless, it may have been God’s direct intervention which made it possible for Man to perceive himself and actively participate in the development of his own consciousness as an adult (the process of prayer). But it could just as well be the way God inherently planned for life to naturally develop on its own such as we. Life is purposeful, but we cannot exactly establish when that purpose was put into motion or being.

Thus, we are certain that death was present in the world long before mammals ran upon it, and more than likely, sin, too, was present in the fact that other animals sought there own selfish interest within their own groups, such as a monkey who lies.

Out foraging one day, a monkey finds a tree with much delicious fruit. What does he do? He runs to another area of the forest and makes the cry which signals a food find to all the other monkeys. He then runs back to his fruit filled tree and gorges himself while the other monkeys gather where there is no food and will not stumble upon him having his fill.

That, my friends, is sin. Whether such sins took place before Man ever appeared, I can’t say, but it illustrates that sin is not limited to humans. It is built into well developed animal life.

It is fair to say then, that sin and death were not a result of Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden.

Now some will spiritualize the religious claim or myth as occurring in eternity and then manifesting in this Creation, but that begs too many other questions.

Others may rationalize that the story is a type which allegorizes our real condition -- that of fallen creatures who suffer, sin, and die. We can only be redeemed or saved by an agency other than ourselves. (This I am not going to dispute.) But if it's an allegory, might not a different one also serve or argue another idea?

Some might suggest that just as the Greek myth of Narcissus is a psychological fable about the disaster of self-love and egotism, the Adam and Eve story reflects spiritual reality.

But how do we know that we are fallen beings when we start out as nothing and become conscious and then self-conscious? In one sense ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Like all animals, we begin from nothing that’s conscious and then have being, and then more of it.

Furthermore, it would be impossible for God to create Adam and Eve out of whole cloth, so to speak. That is, God could not create the persons as completely conscious individuals with likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings all of a sudden. A person is the result of a process from conception to adulthood. There are no shortcuts. No Athena bursting from God’s head fully formed in personality.

God might have the power to create the meat and flesh of an Adam out of nothing, a mere assemblage of organs and such, but the person of Adam? No rational man could accept the possibility.

A number of people are now suggesting that we haven’t ceased to evolve but may become more intelligent than we are now. I must insist though that there is a difference between intelligence and consciousness (as I mean it). Intelligence need not be wise. We may become better computers, indeed. Consciousness refers to development of knowing, of wisdom, insight and discovery.

There are many intelligent people who discover next to nothing significant over the course of their lives; while there are a few humans who become knowing, wise, exceptionally creative and are good computers.

So, in the Adam and Eve story we have a serious breakdown of theology which cannot account for reality as we must know it if we are rational besides also being spiritual.

Does this prove that God didn’t write the Bible or establish religions? Not yet. There are many other “myths” which must be scrutinized honestly before any man can say he thinks faith has been cleared of a lot of underbrush and ornamentation, but the modern challenge to belief in the Fall is a good place to start the debate.

Can anyone really support the Bible’s account in Genesis for our condition?

posted by Mark Butterworth | 9:21 AM |