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Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

I have wondered for some time how to properly understand the story told in Genesis 2-3 of Adam and Eve's disobedience. While I still don't completely grasp it, I felt moved to share some recent thoughts on its meaning.

Although I have heard the story taken as an account of the creation of humankind, I believe it is too inconsistent with our knowledge of archaeology and paleontology to be a literally true record. Rather, I see it as an allegory or parable that portrays a truth about the human condition.

Another way the story could be interpreted is as an indictment of human curiosity. It might appear that God is forbidding Adam and Eve to seek after knowledge at all. Since history shows that most of human progress comes from our drive to explore and understand our world, this might seem to say that such progress is the result of disobedience--a troubling idea at best.

I believe the key to the story is the serpent's promise: "Of course you will not die...your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing both good and evil." (Genesis 3: 4-5) By these words, the serpent tempts Eve to believe that she can take an action (eating the forbidden fruit) that will let her take control of her own life, instead of trusting it to God. She herself, so the temptation says, will have open eyes and a knowledge of all things. Instead, the immediate result of the disobedience was to be cast out from the Garden of Eden.

Many passages in the Bible show that Christians are not called to live in ignorance. "You shall know the truth," said Jesus, "and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). It seems to me that Eve's sin was not seeking knowledge as such, but listening to the serpent's promises and rejecting God as Lord over His creation. This is a struggle each of us encounters in our own lives and circumstances, and its stakes are clearly shown by the Genesis allegory.

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Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 12thMo. 1, 2015 at 15:09

Thank you for this, Annette. I agree with you that the story "portrays a truth about the human condition," a that "the key to the story is the serpent's promise," and that "Eve's sin was...[in] listening to the serpent's promises and rejecting God as Lord over His creation." The Quaker vision, expressed by George Fox, is that Christ Within speaks to our fallen condition, enabling us to return back through the flaming sword into the garden paradise, our rightful condition of the hearing, obeying relationship with our Creator. 

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 12thMo. 7, 2015 at 0:57

Hello, Annette. I appreciate the way you began your blog post. I've often written blog posts that expressed my confusion or uncertainty about Scripture. I liked to think that my working through something in the Bible was encouragement to others. Eventually, the Holy Spirit opened to me a meaning and often, much later, a deeper significance has been given. In fact, reading the sixth sermon from George Fox's sermons, triggered an unexpected opening from the Spirit. 

I personally take Genesis 2-3 to be factual and also more than that, although I don't know that I'd call it allegorical. The more is substance and Spirit, if that makes sense to you. It just so happens I'm reading through Genesis again. The sense of substance and Spirit is so strong to me this time through it. 

I have many reasons for believing Genesis to be factual, but the one that satisfies (to a degree) the materialist as well as Christians, comes from the scientist Dr. Fuz Rana. He was a guest on Greg Koukl's program, Stand To Reason, November 20. I decline to paraphrase what he said because I'd get it half right at best. Stand to Reason has a website where you can access the archives. I recommend listening to the interview.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 12thMo. 8, 2015 at 12:43

Rhonda, are you meaning to say that you take Genesis 2-3 as literal? Jesus' parables, for example, are factual though they aren't meant to be taken literally.

Was there something in Annette's post that was not factual?

Comment by Rhonda Fuller on 12thMo. 11, 2015 at 15:17

Ellis, yes I take it literally. It is what God did. He created everything in six days and rested on the seventh. I understand my acceptance of the creation as written is not the norm and raises eyebrows and skepticism. In no way did I say or suggest Annette's post was not factual. I did encourage her and anyone else to listen to the Fuz Rana interview. Here's the link, https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/str-weekly-podcast-audio/id3702.... The part I refer to is that which deals with scientists discovering that all human beings can be traced back to originating from one male and one female. 

Now, I will further explain my experience of the Old Testament, especially these last few months. I say to people sometimes that the Bible is not regarded by Quakers as the final authority. The Spirit is over the Bible, which is not to denigrate it but rather to be factual. It is the Spirit behind the words that gives meaning and life to them. My reference to the substance and Spirit corresponds to that idea. To me, this same idea applies to all things. So the creation is not only real but spiritual as well. Just as the Exodus is factual but spiritual, as well. That's why George Fox says and early Quakers understood that in order to read the scriptures aright, one must be in the same Spirit as those who wrote them. It is the Spirit that opens the scriptures to a level beyond that of mortal man. So when there seems a conundrum in the scriptures, wait upon the Lord, for He will open them to you and will open them deeper and deeper as you are ready to receive.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 12thMo. 13, 2015 at 13:35

Thanks, Rhonda, for the clarification.

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