December 28, 2010

Dispensation 2 – A Flood of Knowledge

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , at 10:28 AM by E. M.

The dispensations are God’s process of contrastively showing that His plan for humanity is right.

The first dispensation asked the question,  – if man was completely innocent; with no knowledge of the long-term consequences of his actions (good and evil), would he choose to continue to rely on God for moment by moment direction, or would he choose his own way?

As we saw, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and chose to gain knowledge of the long-term.  And when they were confronted about their actions they chose comparative thinking and death instead of contrastive thinking, which would have led to repair and life.

Lack of knowledge did not lead to man choosing God.  The next logical step in the contrastive process would be to create the opposite situation.

Thus the  Second Dispensation asked the question – if man was given a long time to gain an abundance of knowledge, would he use that knowledge to choose God?

We know this dispensation was not successful because . . . well, there was that big ol’ flood and all.

But lets examine the events that led up to the Flood.

Although Adam and Eve failed to keep God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, they did obey Him when He told them to be “fruitful and multiply”.  Right after they got kicked out of Eden, the first couple put on some Marvin Gaye and started cranking out kids.

The first several generations after Adam and Eve lived a LONG time.  Looking at the genealogies in Genesis chapters 4 and 5, we see that their descendants, on average, lived to be well over 700 years old.

If the people during this time averaged one new birth every 10 years, and only actively produced children for 200 of their 700 years (which is VERY conservative), in the 1,656 years between the fall of man and the flood, the population of the world could have easily been in the tens of millions.

The pre-Flood folk had a lot of time to accumulate knowledge and a lot of people to learn from and compound that knowledge.  What was the effect of all this knowledge?  Did man pursue God?  Did abundant knowledge lead to an increase in goodness?

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart – Genesis 6:5-6 KJV

Increased time and knowledge led to man becoming MORE evil!  The more knowledge man got, the worse he became.  The pre-Flood generations continued the pattern set by Adam and Eve.  When they gained knowledge, they chose to be comparative instead of contrastive. They repeated Original Sin!

Since comparative thinking leads to brain damage, imagine the effects of hundreds of years of compounded brain damage.  The result was that by the end of the second dispensation every thought that people had was evil!  They were irredeemably brain damaged!

Adam’s first son, Cain, murdered his brother Abel.  Five generations later, murdering people had reached the stage where Cain’s descendent Lamech thought it was something cool to brag about!

This dispensation was obviously a failure.  Instead of leading man to God, excessive time and knowledge had the opposite effect.  It would have been unjust of God to continue to allow man such longevity and knowledge if the result was total corruption.

God justly ended this dispensation by curtailing man’s lifespan, wiping out the corrupt generation, and starting over with the only guy left on earth who was still on His side.

And of course we’re all familiar with the story of the Great Flood.  God commanded Noah to build the Ark, take his family and a sampling of land animals on it, and then God (literally) opened up the flood gates and performed the first world-wide deep cleaning.

Why did this dispensation fail?  They obviously had knowledge of God.  God apparently spoke verbally to people during this time as He did with Cain, plus Adam lived for 930 years after the fall, so he would have been around for most of this dispensation as another source knowledge.

The pre-Flood generations had plenty of knowledge of God, but they did not act on that knowledge.  They never let that knowledge serve as a guide in order to be better, to grow, to become more righteous and just – to choose God.

Apparently, they had knowledge of God, but they did not believe in God – they had knowledge of the long-term, but they did not believe that God would always be completely right and just in the future (the long term), so they did not follow Him.  They chose their own way.

They failed because they did not believe.  They were missing something.  They lacked the thing that serves as a bridge between knowledge and belief.  They lacked FAITH.

Faith is without a doubt an extremely important part of Christian philosophy (this blog would not have a title without it).  Although it is one of the terms that the Bible gives a direct definition for, it is still very misunderstood.  In the next post we will begin an examination of faith.

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December 13, 2010

Jonesing for Eden

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , at 7:49 AM by E. M.

This week, we conclude our examination of the first dispensation.  I will be the first to admit that this series went on a LOT longer than I had originally planned – not only because I had to take a break from posting for a couple of months, but also in the number of posts in the series.  I had initially planned to do only do 3 to 4 posts on the first dispensation.  As of this week’s post, I’m up to 14!

The reason for the extra time is that as I was writing each post, I kept realizing that there were more and more fundamental aspects of the Eden narrative that needed extrapolation in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of all that occurred during this dispensation, and the wide raging implications of Original sin.

The purpose of this blog is to help the reader gain a better understanding of Christian philosophy, and as I was writing about the first dispensation, it became abundantly clear to me that it is not possible to understand Christianity without a thorough understanding of what happened in Eden and ALL the ramifications therein.

The bottom line is that if you don’t fully understand this fundamental and foundational information, you will not accurately understand God, the Bible, Jesus, or Christianity.  And without this understanding, you may be in danger of allowing false/comparative information to be put in the gaps of what you don’t understand.  This is the kind of thinking that results in contradictions, frustration, unbelief, and religion.

However, if you do gain an understanding of what Eden was, and what we lost when man fell, not only will you better understand God and His purpose, you will unlock the key to what is perhaps the primary motivation of all of our thoughts and actions.  The purpose of this post is to help give you that understanding.

As we saw in the last post, when Adam and Eve committed Original Sin, it not only resulted in their own deaths, but the death of their “kingdom” as well.  All of creation began to die.

Everything in the natural world was in harmony and order before Original Sin and the judgment.  There were no bear maulings, earthquakes, hurricanes, disease, or Reality TV.  But when the order that God established in creation was violated, chaos entered into existence and began to grow exponentially.

People blame God for natural disasters, going so far as calling them “Acts of God” and disparaging God’s character or existence when they occur. But they are not God’s fault.  They are part of the just judgment that Adam brought upon himself.  Adam intentionally gave up his rulership over nature.  Thus God does not, and cannot arbitrary cause OR stop natural disasters without violating justice.  He can only (justly) do so in response to justice (this is a complex subject that deserves its own post).

The term “Acts of God” should be removed from insurance policies and replaced with “Results of Adam”.

The first man and woman; the ultimate, unblemished expression of human perfection, were “optimized” for their existence in paradise.  As their descendants, our bodies and minds are also engineered for Eden.  Our bodies were designed to live forever.  Our minds have the capability to commune with the divine.  We were supposed to be the rulers of the world.  Creation was supposed to obey us.  The world was supposed to work for us.  We were supposed to live in perfect harmony.  We were supposed to be happy.

But we are not happy.  Our lives are not a perfect harmony, and the world is far from a paradise.  We are deposed monarchs, but we still have royal desires.  We fundamentally know that we are supposed to live in perfection, and nothing less than paradise will satisfy us.  In the depths of our souls, we expect to live in perfection.  But we don’t.  We suffer from Adam’s frustration.  And in our perpetual dissatisfaction we ask, “what’s the point?”

We all want to go back to Eden.  We desire that return to harmonious perfection with the same pervasive, all-encompassing, and unrepentant longing with which a drug addicts longs for his next fix.  This desire is the root of all our behavior.

If recapturing Eden is possible, we essentially have two choices in trying to achieve it: we can either choose God’s way or we can try to do it ourselves.

Without God, man’s only choice is to try to create paradise on earth.  What are all the various sociopolitical, utopian aspirations of men (imperialism, socialism, capitalism, communism, feminism, theocracies, etc.) other than the desire to create a harmonious social structure on earth?

And if this earth is all we have, then is it any wonder that people are willing to kill, die, lie, corrupt and destroy for the sake of their particular utopian goals?  If this earth is all there is, then the ends ultimately justify the means.

This desire for a God-less Eden is not just expressed in grandiose social schemes; it hits us in our most personal lives as well.  Our expectation and desire for harmonious perfection (and our frustration in never achieving it) affects the way we manage our careers, our homes, our families, and our finances.

It’s the reason many grow to despise the spouses that they once thought were “perfect” for them.  It’s why some parents drive their kids to reach a perfection they themselves were not able to achieve.  It’s why we drive ourselves to get better jobs, more money, or a more attractive spouse.  It’s why people are driven to lie, cheat, scheme, and betray to amass power.  Its because of the idea that if we just had “a little more” or if we could just make things “a little better” we would finally reach perfection.

When I compared our desire for Eden to that of a drug addict, I wasn’t just being metaphorical.  ALL of our addictions are rooted in our desire for paradise.  What is an addiction, (be it to a substance, or activity), other than a desire to capture, however briefly, an ecstasy, a beauty, an existential happiness that we cannot grasp in our reality?  Our desire for Eden is so strong that we will endure the destructive long-term consequences of addiction for a brief connection to a false transcendence.

Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, the record of human history should provide abundant proof that man cannot create paradise on his own.  Unfortunately the comparative thinking that accompanies Godlessness causes the brain damage that keeps those trying to create utopias from seeing their error.

So what is God’s solution to this problem?  God’s way is the meaning of life – Heaven.  To quote C.S. Lewis, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

God’s way does not involve trying to force-fit perfection into an imperfect world filled with imperfect people.  God’s desire is to redeem those of us who are willing, into new bodies with new spirits. The dispensations are a part of this process.

Once we are redeemed, all of creation will be redeemed as well.  In fact, the Bible says that creation is “jonesing” for Eden just like we are.  Creation longs for our redemption so that it can be redeemed.

Our desire for Eden shapes our lives.  How we choose to pursue that desire will shape our eternity

In the first dispensation, God addressed the question:  “if man was completely innocent, with no knowledge of good and evil, would he choose God on his own?”  The answer was “no”, and the result was death.  If the lack of knowledge did not cause man to choose God, what would happen if man were given an abundance of knowledge?  Does knowledge alone lead to God?  We’ll examine those questions next time when we begin our look at the second dispensation.

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December 4, 2010

Tragedy and Hope

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , at 2:23 PM by E. M.

THE CURSE: BAD FOR MANKIND, GREAT FOR TELEVISION

The last few posts have dealt with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and why eating the fruit of that tree led to death.  This week, we will look at the wider implications of Adam and Eve eating the fruit, as well as the “what”, “why”, and “how” of the curses God pronounced on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent as part of the judgment for Original Sin.

As advertised, the end result of eating from the tree was the entrance of death into existence – not only for humanity, but for all of creation.

Adam was given rulership over the entire world.  When he embraced death, his kingdom became subject to death as well.  All of creation lost the ability to sustainably repair.  Everything started to wear down.  I believe that this is when the Second Law of Thermodynamics came into being.  If nothing happens to stop it, the entire universe will lose all its energy and suffer a Heat Death.

In addition to death, Genesis 3 chronicles specific curses that God pronounced on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent:

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field. Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.”

Unto the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

And unto Adam He said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, `Thou shalt not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” –  Genesis 3:14-19 KJV

These curses are so well known that they are often taken for granted and do not receive the analysis they deserve.

The popular (i.e. easy/comparative) way to look at it, is to see God waving His mighty scepter and decreeing curses on Adam and Eve based on His arbitrary judgment; a thought process which is so far beyond our understanding that we need not think about the “why’s” behind these particular curses.  He’s God.  He can do whatever He wants.  Move along, nothing to see here.

However, since we know God’s nature, we can no longer get away with being intellectually lazy when examining His actions.  God is always and completely right and just, which means He does not do anything randomly or arbitrarily.  Everything He does has a right and just reason behind it.  It would be unjust to pronounce a curse which was divorced form the thoughts, actions, and decisions Adam and Eve made, as well as a big-picture perspective of the events.

If you recall the Eden narrative, Eve ate the fruit first, but God did not intervene until after Adam ate the fruit.  Why?  Because Eve did not directly disobey God, she disobeyed Adam!  Let me explain:

A fundamental aspect of God’s methodology seems to be “order” and “hierarchy”.  For example, while each member of the Trinity is equally “God”, they have agreed to a hierarchy – the Son gives deference to the Father, and the Holy Spirit gives deference to the Son.  This ensures perfect love and harmony.

God also established an orderly and profitable hierarchy in His creation.  God was to lead Adam.  Adam was to follow God and lead Eve.  Adam and Eve were to lead and rule over the rest of creation.  While this hierarchy was in place and functioning, there was perfection and harmony in the world.  It was paradise.

But paradise was undone when the hierarchy was violated.

I’ve let it be known that my opinion is that Satan was the serpent and/or spoke through a serpent. All of creation – including the Angels, were supposed to be subject to man (I believe that Satan’s aversion to this subordination was the motivation behind the temptation of Eve).

The serpent/Satan knew that the best way to kick Adam off the throne was to reverse the hierarchical order.  Instead of leadership being initiated from the “top down”, it was initiated from the “bottom up”: Eve followed the serpent,  Adam followed Eve,  (and by thinking comparatively, and blaming God for his disobedience, Adam tried to get God to follow him).

The Bible says that Eve was fooled into eating the fruit.  The only way she could be fooled is if she didn’t fully understand the admonition not to eat the fruit, or if it wasn’t appropriately explained to her.  I believe this was the case because during the temptation, she misquoted the rules!

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Genesis 3:2-3 [emphasis mine]

God did not say anything about not touching the fruit.  Eve either intentionally lied about the “touching” part (which would not be possible since she was still free from sin at this point), or Adam failed to make sure she had the proper understanding of the rules, which means he failed as a leader!  Once the Serpent saw this chink in the armor, he knew that Eve was vulnerable to deception.

After she ate the fruit, nothing happened to Eve because she had NOT yet gained the knowledge of good and evil.  Why?  Because as we saw in the last post, the knowledge of good and evil comes when you are forced to think long-term.  Even after eating the fruit, Eve did not have to think long-term because her source of constant information and direction (Adam) was still available to her! 

But the Bible makes it clear that Adam was NOT fooled when he ate the fruit.  He understood the rules and intentionally broke them.  Instead of leading Eve to repentance for her disobedience, he decided that he would rather be with his wife in sin than with God in righteousness.  He chose to follow Eve over God.  He intentionally reversed the hierarchy and gave up his role as leader!

And as we saw in the last post, Adam’s disobedience disconnected him from God and both he and Eve had to start thinking long-term

God took the actions and decisions of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent and essentially cursed them to live with the extrapolated ramifications of them.  And because God is just, He gave a reason (a “because”) for the specifics of each curse.

Because Adam voluntarily gave up his leadership of the world, God made it so that creation would no longer obey him.  He would have to struggle and fight nature in order for it to yield its sustenance to him.  To this day man is still frustrated by this curse.  Be it in his occupation, his home, his society, or nature – man can never fully make the world bend to his will.

Because Eve decided to reverse the hierarchy of her relationship, she was cursed to experience pain and frustration in all her most intimate relationships.  The original language implies that not only would she experience physical pain in bearing children, emotional pain and heart break would be a hallmark of rearing the child.  As men are cursed to be frustrated by seeking but never finding perfection in the world, women are to constantly seek but never find perfection in relationships.

It’s also VERY enlightening to note that most Bible translations make a prepositional error in these verses.  The original language does not say that the wife’s desire will be to her husband (desiring your husband isn’t much of a curse unless you’re married to an oaf), It actually says that her desire will be to the husband – or rather to the position of husband.  In other words, women will seek to be the head of the relationship, BUT God has ordained that the man be the ruler.  This conflict is the source of much of the antagonism between men and women (as well as the plot-line of most television comedies).

Now, on to the serpent.   Because the serpent “rose up” beyond its station in life when it reversed the hierarchy by leading humanity to temptation, it was physically cursed by being “brought down” to crawling on its belly (which obviously means it was a very different critter before the curse).

One of the reasons that I believe we are dealing with more than just a snake, are the subsequent parts of the curse.  God said the serpent would eat dust the rest of its life, yet we know that snakes don’t eat dust (that would be a waste of venom).  In the context of the verses, “dust” is referenced as the man’s body – specifically, his dead body. Satan is cursed to “hunger” for the death of man.

Part of the curse on Adam was that he lost rulership of the world.  As his despoiler, Satan now has that role.  But instead of man being subservient to Satan as he had hoped, through the curse, man became his enemy.  I believe this is where Satan lost his free will.  He was cursed with the irrational and irreversible desire to destroy those whom he wanted to rule.  But this antagonistic relationship will turn out to be the catalyst for man’s redemption.

The last part of the curse on the serpent contains the seed plot (no pun intended – you’ll see) for the rest of the Bible and the next six dispensations, and includes mankind’s greatest Hope.

God stated that He would make “The Seed of the woman” and “the seed of the serpent” enemies (we’ll address this when we examine dispensations 5 and 6).  He also said that the Satan would “bruise the heel” of (cause physical damage to) the Seed of the woman, but the Seed of the woman would “crush his head” (deliver a mortal wound).

This portion of the curse is actually the first prophesy of the redemption of man, and gives the first descriptors of the redeemer.  The “seed” (sperm) naturally comes from the man, so whoever this “Seed of the woman” is, He would have to come into being through a woman without natural “input” from a man.  And while Satan will cause Him to suffer, He will ultimately completely defeat Satan and reclaim the kingdom that Adam lost.

We’ve spent a lot of time examining the First Dispensation, much longer than I had planned. But it is absolutely crucial that these foundational events be understood.  This understanding is key to unlocking the rest of the Bible as well as the essential psychology of man. In the next post, we will finally conclude our study of the first dispensation by looking at how the desire for Eden shapes our existence.

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