November 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Trees part 5 – Eating Yourself to Death

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , at 4:02 PM by E. M.

THE EPITOME OF SHORT-TERM THINKING

This week we conclude our examination of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by understanding why eating the fruit of the Tree led to death for Adam and Eve (and consequently, for all of us).

It’s easy to see what has become of humanity since the fall of man (just watch an episode of “Jersey Shore”).  But what were things like before Original Sin?

Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were in a state of complete innocence.  They lived and thought only in the moment.  They “walked with God” daily and thus received constant direction from Him.  They never had to think about tomorrow or “what to do next”, because God was always there to tell them.  Their only obligation was to obey.

The Bible makes a point of saying that they were naked and unashamed. They didn’t know the implications of being naked because they never thought that far ahead!  They ran around naked and free in their naïveté without giving any thought to what would happen next.  They were like babies in that sense (or college kids on spring break).

So what happened when they ate from the Tree?  Well, as advertised, they gained knowledge of good and evil – of creation and destruction.

Does this mean that Adam and Eve did not know what creation and destruction were before they ate the fruit?  No, they knew about creation because God undoubtedly explained the origin of the world to them, plus Adam knew that Eve had been created.  They knew about destruction because they witnessed it on a small scale whenever they ate fruit from the other trees (“destroying” it in the process).

But the complete definitions of good and evil are creation and destruction in the long-term. That is what Adam and Eve gained knowledge of:  the long-term!

When they disobeyed God, they voluntarily disconnected themselves from His influence.   Their constant “life guide” was gone. They were on their own for the first time in their existence. They were no longer led by an intelligence that was always and completely right and just.  They had to figure out what to do next based on their own imperfect judgment and thought processes.

The human brain is in a constant state of creating and “rewiring” itself based on our thoughts and experiences.  This is most dramatically true with infants because their lack of experience gives them the most new neural connections to make.  As heretofore-innocent beings, Adam and Eve were in a similar position.

When they had to think long-term for the first time, brand new connections would have begun to form in their brains.  They began to process long-term cause/effect relationships and they started to understand the ramifications of what they had done.  They were able to imagine a future in which they were separated from God.  They became afraid, and they hid.

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they began to see all the long-term implications of their nakedness – desire, sexual intimacy, joy, pregnancy, heart break, child rearing, guilt, jealousy, etc. (basically, they took on the opposite mindset of a kid on spring break).

When they experienced this flood of knowledge and the guilt associated with it, Adam and Eve committed the first religious act by covering their “shame” with fig leaves.

What was it about the fruit that caused this?  Did it have some type of “magical” composition?  Did it contain a deadly brain toxin (could this have been the origin of high-fructose corn syrup)?  No, I think that it was just regular fruit.  What made it significant was God’s command not to eat it, which entailed the choice to stop living with moment-by-moment direction from Him.  It was the choice that disconnected Adam and Eve from God, not the fruity goodness.

God told Adam that in the day that he ate the fruit, he would die.  How could God accurately make that prediction?  Because He knew the causes that would lead to the effects.  God knew that Adam and Eve were not always and completely right and just, so when they gained the knowledge of the long term and had the burden of decision, they would choose to pursue death by being comparative.

But God, being just, had to give them the opportunity to be contrastive – to repair their brains and live.  Instead, they predictably chose to be comparative.  They chose death.

And thus all of their descendants (us) follow the same pattern.  We are all born innocent, however, since we are born without a connection to God, we all quickly gain knowledge of the long term.  And since we are not always and completely right and just, we (like our original ancestors) choose to be comparative.  We all eventually commit Original Sin and our brains become wired to pursue death.  We damage our brains and compound and escalate that damage as we gain more experience.

But fear not.  All is not lost.  In the next post we will conclude our study of the first dispensation by examining the curses that God placed on Adam, Eve, and the serpent after Original Sin.  The curses are the source of many of the struggles we face today, but in the midst of the curses He pronounces, God also gives us our greatest hope for redemption.  Next time.

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November 12, 2010

Does God Need Evil?

Posted in Terminology tagged , , , , , at 6:48 PM by E. M.

MANUTE BOL - THE GREATEST WARRIOR

Last week we continued our examination of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by defining “good” as that “that which creates in the long term”, and “evil” as “that which destroys in the long term”.

The concepts of Good and evil are prominent themes in the Bible and drive much of the Biblical narrative.

The overarching theme of the Bible is the redemption of man.  The redemption scenario begins with Original Sin and the Fall of Man in Genesis, and concludes with the restoration of Heaven and Earth, and the implementation of God’s plan at the end of the dispensations.

Redemption is only possible if evil occurs first.  So does God need evil in order to make His plan possible?  Did He have to somehow “stack the deck” against Adam and Eve in order to make Original Sin happen?  Does good need evil in order to exist?

The answer to these questions is “no”.   Adam and Eve did not have to listen to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  They could have chosen to obey God and take moment-by-moment direction from Him forever (more on this in the next post).  Then the first dispensation would have been a success and God could have implemented His plan.

But God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, not because of any manipulation on His part, but because He knew the causes and the effects.  God knew that a being who’s nature was not always and completely right and just (man) would eventually make a wrong (sinful) decision.  But God had to give Adam and Eve an honest choice because God is just, and His ultimate goal is for man to choose to love Him.

So God did not need evil, but He knew the causes would lead to evil effects so He had a plan of redemption on standby from the beginning.

Good does not need evil in order to exist.  In fact, it’s the other way around – evil needs good in order to exist!

Good is creation.  Evil is destruction.  In order to create something, it’s not necessary that something else be destroyed first.  Creation can occur forever without any destruction occurring (in fact, that’s what Heaven is all about).  So good does not need evil.

On the other hand, the only way you can destroy something is if that “something” has already been created.  It is possible to create something out of nothing, but you can’t destroy “nothing”.  Evil cannot exist on its own.  Evil needs “good” to create something for it to destroy.  Evil needs good in order to exist.

With this in mind, I would contend that one of the most effective ways to defeat evil is to not give it anything to destroy.  I will give you a benign example of this idea in action.

I grew up in Los Angeles.  My parents were huge fans of the LA Lakers basketball team, so I’ve rooted for them all my life.  A few years ago I had a co-worker who was a huge fan of the Golden State Warriors (I know, I didn’t think such a creature existed either).  His love for the warriors was matched only by his hatred for the Lakers.

Once he found out that I was a Lakers fan, he took every opportunity to pump up the warriors and denigrate the Lakers.  His goal was “evil”.  He wanted to destroy the portion of  Lakers fandom that I embodied.

For those of you who don’t know, in the entire history of the two sports franchises, the Warriors have never come close to the stature of the Lakers.  They are more of a nuisance than a threat.  Yet this co-worker always managed to frustrate me with the illogical conversations he would engage me in.  Here is a sample:

Warriors Fan: Warriors are going all the way this year!

Me:  you mean all the way to last place like last year?

Warriors Fan: Warriors are a better franchise than the Lakers!  That’s a fact!

Me: you’re as crazy as a bag of squirrels.  That’s a fact.  The Lakers have always been superior to the Warriors

Warriors Fan:  In 1988 the Warriors led the league in points

Me:  Yet the Lakers won the championship that year

Warriors Fan: That’s because the ref’s gave Magic Johnson all the calls!  He’s not even that good.

Me:  He won 5 championships and 3 league MVP’s

Warriors Fan: but he wasn’t as exciting as Michael Jordan!

Me: What does Jordan have to do with anything?

Warriors Fan: Warriors could have traded for Michael Jordan in 1986

Me:  Traded for him with what?  Manute Bol and a ham sandwich?  That’s all the Warriors had in ‘86

Warriors Fan: With Jordan, we would have won 6 titles!

Me: You need serious mental help

Warriors Fan: Kobe Bryant is the one who needs help!  He’s the most hated player in the league. . .

See the pattern?  He would always succeed in frustrating me because I kept trying to defeat him with facts and logic.  But he never had to create any logical facts because his goal was to destroy; so all he had to do was keep throwing silly arguments at me until I gave up, and he’d get the last word.

I decided to try an experiment and see how our conversation would go if I didn’t give him anything to destroy:

Warriors Fan: Warriors are going to kick some Lakers butt tonight!

Me:  That’s certainly a possibility

Warriors Fan: Nobody likes Kobe, not even his own teammates

Me: That may be

Warriors Fan:  . . . Lakers defense is terrible this year

Me: Nobody’s perfect

Warriors Fan: . . .yeah . . . well . . .Lakers suck.  I’m going to my desk now

Me:  Make sure you adjust your chair for maximum ergonomic efficiency.

He needed me to create arguments for him.  Without them, he had nothing to destroy.  When I withheld my “good” from him, his “evil” quickly burned itself out.

Again, this was an innocuous example, but you can see this idea carried out in some of the encounters Jesus had with His detractors, Matthew 22:15-46 is a good sample.  The stated goal of His enemy was to trap Him verbally in order to destroy His popularity with the people and illegitimatize His authority.  Notice that Jesus did not create anything new for them, He would respond by either quote existing scripture, or by asking them questions to expose their motives.

As a productive exercise, I recommend that the next time someone tries to engage you in a conversation or activity with the intent of destruction, see what happens when you withhold whatever it is they need you to create in order to feed their desire for evil.  Depending on the person and the conversation, it can actually be quite fun.

In the next post, we will bring together everything we’ve learned so far about the first dispensation and examine exactly how and why eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil led to death.

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