Sunday, March 8, 2009

Inspired By a True Story

I am not certain about the biblical story told about Adam and Eve. I am certain that the message as it was intended remains intact today. I am certain that it has been told for innumerable generations in order to share the message of it. I am not certain though, what sort of story it is.

It isn't as simple as concluding that either it is literal- reporting factual information as it unfolded in real-time in a specific point in history- or allegorical/metaphorical. Whether *the* Adam and Eve of the story existed as they are portrayed or not seems somewhat irrelevant to me, but it is clearly very important to many people that a side is taken on the issue of the veracity of the historicity of the story and its characters. I make no such promise to allay the anxiety of anyone hoping to see me resolve my own position on the matter.

I'd like to share another option. What if Adam and Eve did exist, and the story was also told in an allegorical way with many real-time details included, and the message of the story left intact, even though the story in its entirety isn't completely accurate? We have a genre for this sort of story even now. It's called historical fiction, and in movies, they call it 'based upon a true story' or 'inspired by a true story' so that we know that the message and purpose of the story is supposed to remain intact, but license has been taken for whatever reason (artistic, pneumonic purpose, ease of delivery, etc...) in the details likely including timelines and exact dialogue replication, sometimes characters are omitted or added in order to tell the story more effectively, etc....

Given that the Genesis account of the creation and fall (and other important stuff) was transmitted orally, could aspects of the actual story have been altered to allow for ease of delivery and memorisation for tradition? Could the whole story have been transplanted into a context that would allow for the message to be better understood than it would have been if it had been told as it occurred? I've never met anyone who had the book of Leviticus memorised, and if the original account of the creation was similarly complex, and therefore ordered and presented, who could tell it, let alone remember it?

What truly compromises the story?

Did Adam and Eve have to be the only people on the earth when the fall happened in order for the story to be understood and valid? Perhaps they were the only ones who initially sinned, which would warrant the story being told with them in leading roles, but is the story compromised by other players having also existed? I just wonder because God seems pretty concerned with who can procreate with whom, and sister-brother and child-parent couplings are a no-no, so who made the next generation?

There are many questions I have about this, but mostly, I wanted to point out that while I am not convinced of the real-time, detail-exact reading of the story of Adam and Eve, that doesn't mean I must therefore also discard everything within it as false or imaginary. There is a pretty wide margin for fence-sitting and even a badminton game with a fence-net. In either case, as usual regarding this subject, I am neither inclined nor intending to set up my tent, I just enjoy the company, the view, the discussion, and appreciate the fresh air. :)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I am reading a truly fascinating book by Conrad Hyers called The Meaning of Creation. It was written in 1984 so it's been around for awhile, but I only just discovered it. It is a beautiful, well written, superbly balanced look at Genesis 1. I have never read anything like it on this subject and am recommending it to anyone who wished to step outside of the Bible versus Science debate for a refresh view of the Bible and Science.
Cheers,
Wyatt

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
You are so daring and so gracious, two qualities I definitely admire.
This story has always puzzled me; it has seemed like one of those "untouchables" ...
Isn't it just a bit funny that we may all pretend to understand what we are really clueless about?
We are a funny lot.
I think sometimes we get caught up in the form and miss the substance.
What is the essence of the story, the substance that we are to grasp and embrace and hopefully absorb and reflect to those around us.
I've always seen grace in this story, even though I couldn't understand the logistics of it all -- kind of like appreciating a finely crafted timepiece but having no clue what really makes it tick.
I have always wondered at the grace and mercy of God in this story, for Adam and Eve and for myself ...
In his mercy, he put them out of the garden ... I say that because I believe that is the only way they would have come back to focusing on the substance and not the form, the relationship and not just what they saw around them.
Long-comment-short, I say it is the substance -- what is not easily seen or grasped -- and not the form, what is obvious and, although easily grasped, does not satisfy.
There's my ramblings ...
Jo-Anne

Sarah said...

Wyatt, I would looooove to read that book, you know to add to the stack of books we have on loan from the Wyatt Public Library, lol. I'm going to see if I can find it actually; it looks like a possible addition to our mostly missing in action library (I miss our books...).

Jo-Anne, probably the first time that this story as it is usually interpreted caught my special attention was last year. I had read the story many times before, but somehow missed the part when God fashioned clothing for the naked couple.

They were covering themselves and He in His love and mercy instead of shouting at them for doing exactly what He warned them would change them forever, made clothing for them so they could stand in His presence freely, without feeling ashamed. HE covered their shame! IN THE GARDEN!!! He didn't wait for the atonement of Christ to do this; He did it immediately!

I guess recognising this had me questioning just what sort of cursing, casting out, shunning, condemning god would first dress wounds. I had to conclude that the god I had been told about who cursed and shunned in his righteous anger, couldn't be the same God who clothed His disobedient children before shooing them out so they wouldn't seal their fate by also eating of the tree of life before its time and thereby condemn themselves forever (Boyd discusses this view in Repenting of Religion).

You're sweet for calling me daring and gracious. <3 Most of the time I think that it would have been better for me to have not shared my thoughts, but then I feel compelled even if I end up needing correction and education. I guess I'm just not sure how to learn without sharing.

I oftentimes do so with total strangers in completely technologically distanced forums, but I think there is much value in learning with people who can see me as a whole person with all of my life and foibles out in the open. The risk is infinitely greater, but its always my hope that a greater risk will bring a greater return-- in the form of relationship.

I wince a lot when I click on the post icon...

Oh, and feel free to ramble. Every one of my posts is a rambling and so are my comments. I think this is a ramble-friendly blog. If it isn't, I guess I'm not welcome! Lol. I think the most coherent and comprehensive post I've written was about fermenting vegetables! Lol! So really, we haven't set a bar here. :)

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
I was thinking last night about what you said about "grace in the garden" and that grace is not something that the Father does but it is who he is. Perhaps that is why we see grace in all that he did. When something is part of your character, it should be evident in everything you do.
You cannot separate character. Even in what some might see as punishment or what we might see as discipline, the Father's mercy and grace is there. At times of discouragement in my life, that has been my anchor ... that He never changes, no matter what is happening around us.
I had difficulty with that as a younger Christian. I had a hard time understanding the God who turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt. Where was the grace and mercy there? Where was the covering there? But because of the relationship I have with Him now, I know that his mercy and grace is always there, even if we do not see it readily.
Christian charity would be a good topic. The first thing that came to mind when you mentioned Christian charity was Onesimous.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
Just re-reading what you said about covering.
Isn't it amazing that God has been covering our shame from the beginning? From creation onward?
It really stretches how I see salvation.
He related to me as a little girl -- before I ever knew Him, he was a father to me.
Once a father, always a father.
If we follow in his example, we will extend that covering to others ...
That is a good thought to close with tonight.
One more thing: I watched a movie last night called The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
I was distraught, almost angry, with the ending (or perhaps angry because it reminded me of the brutal reality of the haulocaust).
Two eight-year-old boys -- one German, one Jewish -- caught in the crosshairs of humananity-gone-beserk.
The eight-year-old German boy wanted so desperately to befriend the Jewish boy that he dug under the fence of a work camp, crawled under, put on a pair of striped "pyjamas" and was ushered into a death chamber, the two of them holding onto each other.
I'm not sure how this relates here other than I see a covering anytime we extend such love and grace to another human being.
I wanted the boys to grow up, live comfortable lives, run into each other as adults and renew their cherished friendship.
But it didn't end in that "happily ever after" way that movies sometimes end.
Life is not "happily ever after".
Jesus warned us that it wouldn't be, but he did not leave us without hope, either.
He gives us hope from creation onward.
Anyway, I loved your thoughts on coverings ... beautiful.
J

sarah said...

Yikes. I'm now sure I won't be watching that movie, although I appreciate the premise.

I was taken aback the first time I noticed that verse- mostly because it is so clear and somehow I didn't see previously. I guess I had somehow blocked the possibility of seeing it by the perspective I held before.

I had thought for so long that we are to extend forgiveness once the criteria are met (contrition and repentance) and hadn't even considered that we could love or be loved in a state of perpetual sin, which is how I viewed our life. I guess I held a contradictory belief that God both loves unconditionally, but on the condition that we love Him back and make that known through testimony.

Once I had left the Lutheran Church and began an exploration that would have had me hanged if done during my membership, I discovered this contradiction and once I opened my heart to receive whatever the Lord wished to reveal to me about this, I began to see verses all over the bible that confirmed what I had not previously noticed or that I had just glossed over inputting the 'correct theology' wherever I didn't have experience, knowledge, understanding, and/or wisdom, which was very frequent.

So some might then say that I found what I believe instead of letting the text speak to me what is real- that in believing something else, I essentially proof-texted where before I 'theologised', leaving me in the same state with different views.

I suppose that is a valid criticism, and logical. The only issue I take with it is that it really doesn't matter if I see what I believe or if I believe what I see. It's not like I can draw a thick black line between objective and subjective reality when the only manner through which I can interpret anything is subjectivity, and in order to do that, I have to make observations and predictions, which are objective (or as close to whatever objectivity is).

It's not neat and tidy and linear (like systems), but messy and sometimes scary and/or liberating and spherical (like a journey through life).

Also, it's probably the furthest thing from 'safe' but who am I to value safety over truth? And maybe I'm wrong, but I have no way of determining that without exploring- even if my explorations turns up nothing absolute (which I anticipate looking through the dim glass that I do). So, I'm exploring. :)

I really have no choice but to believe what I see and see what I believe. So, I'm content to accept that it's both.

Also, in embracing this, it is amazing the changes that have occurred in my relationships and myself. It's too obvious to ignore. I repel those who cannot see this and make friends with those who do. It has hurt many times until I realised that this is what has happened. Then it just made sense.

Unconditional love is so foreign to most people that hostility is the common response (in my limited experience)- especially amongst Christians. Then there are UNbelievers who feel threatened by it too because they cannot, for whatever reason, receive unconditional love and felt 'safe' when they thought it wasn't offered. So, inadvertently, I make enemies in every direction, but so did Christ, and for the same reason!

Relating to the movie you mentioned, I performed a monologue in highschool wherein a girl had leukemia and lost all of her hair during chemo. She was devastated and discouraged that the wigs all looked like wigs and weren't really to her taste either.

When she returned from her hospital stay, she arrived to find that her sister had shaven all of her hair off so she could feel normal and still pretty. When people open up to love, we can be very creative in expressing just what others need. <3

So, like the boys in the movie, now two people suffered instead of one, but in doing so, bore the burden together (and really, nobody actually suffers alone, so we can participate in helping or we can just endure the result of not helping which may not seem as acute, but it always filters through and down). It's a hard thing, but beautiful.

Anyway, I've blabbered on enough now, lol.

Blessings- many and in abundance!
Sarah

Anonymous said...

Well, I love your "blabberings." They are wonderful and I am so thrilled to have someone to discuss things with, without having people look at me like I have three heads.
It is worth exploring. I would rather spend my time exploring the things of God with those who love the same thing than attending parties and playing party games (not that there's anything wrong with that for those who love that).
I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot separate out flesh and spirit and that we see truth (know truth) because of our experience through both.
And flesh is not evil. God created it and pronounced it good, even though we are capable of doing heinous things.
Despite what Chris says about this not being safe, I say it is safe.
You can explore in a way you said you couldn't before.
So can I.
I wonder if we look like small children making mud pies as we explore all these things -- in God's eyes -- but I can't help but think that he delights in our wanting to know more of Him, to experience more of him.

It's just not who I am.
I have learned some hard lessons on my journey. I've made some terrible mistakes and hurt people.
I believe, with all that is in me, in redemption and in transformation.
There is a part of me that longs to turn back the clock, the hands of time, and to undo my mistakes -- but I wouldn't be who I am today without having fallen and having the Lord show me things about myself.
In that way, I embrace pain.
But I have grieved over the loss of relationships -- at least over what I thought was lost.
Then I realize that some things need to truly die for other things to be born in us.
God has put it in my heart to love in small ways ... perhaps subtle at times, as he prompts me.
Sometimes that has been misunderstood, but I think people just aren't used to love the way God wants us to love.
I also know, though, that it is very powerful.
I can't do a lot of things, but I can love.
I hope that is enough.
I love this saying: Per aspera ad astra (from the difficulty, from the muck and the mire that we find ourselves in, to the stars).
He created us for that -- to know Him in every way and to be transformed from one degree of glory to another.
How many of us would shave our head out of love? If God called us to do it, I believe we could.
J

Anonymous said...

The "it's just not who I am" landed in the wrong place up there. It was supposed to be after the "party thing".
Just in case that causes confusion.
Get better.
Thank you for your note, tonight.
J