Archive for August, 2013

The Nakedness Motif and the Fall

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 by ancienthopes

The concept of nakedness is too deep for the human mind to unravel. What it was before the fall can only be guessed at. What it is now, both dark side and bright side, and how it relates to our human psyche and person-hood, is unfathomable; the more one contemplates it the more layers of theological reflection is exposed. At the bottom of it all is the imago dei. As we said previously on May 28 “The Jewel of the Seventh Day; The Imago Dei,” the imago dei must extend to our physical form as well as the spiritual in spite of the fact that God is not corporal. There is something about our bodies that is compatible, or analogous, to the divine, in both its male and female expressions, and this explains why human nakedness is ever so mysterious, as well as its power. The powerful attraction to the human form is more than just chemical. In nakedness we gaze into God ─ the power of it can, and often does, drive us mad!

The temptation narrative is framed with the idea of nakedness (Genesis 2:25-3:7). Those familiar with the Hebrew understand that the text turns on a pun. Adam and Eve were “naked” (Heb. `arûmmim, 2:25), meaning transparent and innocent, in contrast to the serpent, who was “crafty” (Heb. `arûm), meaning opaque, sinister. By the end of the narrative in verse 7, Adam and Eve are no longer “naked” in their original way, but in a way that resembles the serpent. The demonophany (satanic possession of this creature) succeeded in remaking the imago dei into its own image, but only to an extent. The body lost its original glory but still reflects the imago dei, albeit in a corrupted form. The dark side of nakedness now becomes the playground of evil.

What has happened to humanity in the fall is best expressed though the imagery of nakedness. Before Adam and Eve were innocent and transparent; now they are opaque and untrustworthy. Before they were not ashamed, “shame” being a spiritual category necessarily related to the confusion brought about by a fall from original glory. Now they knew shame. Before they had no need to cover themselves ─ either from one another or from God. Now they had to protect themselves not only from their own stares, but also from divine eyes that cannot tolerate sin and its consequences on the mortal frame. Before they were protected in a Garden, but now they are exposed to the elements and all the discomforts of a fallen environment. Before nakedness was a gift, now it takes center stage in a self-centered power game. Tight boundaries must now be maintained, or human society will come unglued.

So much more can be said here; there is no end to the nakedness motif! All that we need to establish here is that sin and its consequences are portrayed in a very vivid image and not in abstract theological or philosophical terms. To be a sinful person is to be naked and vulnerable both physically and spiritually, in need of clothing. We might even say that death is nakedness. God warned Adam that in the day that he eats from the tree that he would die (2:17). In the Bible, death is not understood as a cessation of existence but diminished existence. This explains why Adam and Eve did not cease to exist, but rather “knew” that their condition changed from glory to a nakedness that is best described as a death, a death that is finally complete when the body falls away from the spirit and returns to its dust. To St. Paul, this situation is absurd! A disembodied spirit is a naked spirit desperately in need of clothes (i.e. a resurrected body, II Cor. 5:1-5). The fact that Jesus hung absolutely naked on the “tree” completes this association between nakedness, sin, and death.

Advertisements

Faces

Posted in Uncategorized on August 12, 2013 by ancienthopes

The story of Adam and Eve with the snake is disarmingly simple. We may dismiss it outright as ridiculously unscientific and impossible to believe or to take seriously. However, it refuses to go away. In fact, it demands to be taken at face value. The human race most certainly had an origin, and even though one may hypothesize a more complex scenario of human beginnings, (which could be none other than an evolutionary scheme) it loses touch with the human soul in proportion to its complexity and uncertainty. In other words, we cannot get beyond the faces of Adam and Eve, and for that matter, the snake as well. Behind these faces, if they are not to be taken at face value, is nothing but darkness and confusion, a cloud impenetrable. Scientists might revel in this chaos, but evolution has not the power to capture the human imagination at large. We are stuck with Adam and Eve whether we understand them in a symbolic way, or literal way, or something of both. They are our dad and mom.

Certainly there is a symbolic dimension to them! Most of us know that Adam is a name derived from the Hebrew word ʹadāmâ which means “ground.” We are necessarily creatures tied to this earth. We might also know that Adam is the generic word for humanity as well, translated “man.” How did God form them? We simply do not know apart from the fact that the material with which He formed man is the same stuff of the ground. The crucial thing is that somewhere along the way God “breathed” intimately into “man” and he became a living soul, the body and spirit together becoming the imago dei. That Eve was taken from the man’s side is so artfully simple! It explains in one elemental stroke the yearning for one another and completeness when together. As we study the temptation narrative we see that Adam is every man and Eve is every woman. Written in an economy of style, this narrative unfolds into inexhaustible theological and psychological dimensions, exposing the inner essence of our humanity like nothing else written ever has. The modern world with all of its scientific knowledge and theory has nothing to compare with it. The same can be said of the snake and its symbolism!

So all we have are the faces of Adam, Eve, and the serpent. In them we have what we might call the “first man” motif, the “beautiful woman” motif, and with the serpent, the face of evil. These faces take us all the way through Scripture. The Bible is not interested in getting behind these faces to some scientific or philosophical exactitude to suit our modern cravings for mechanical explanations of origins. In them we have what we need to understand our humanity. To get behind them will do us no good. In the faces of Adam and Eve is the imago dei. In this lie all the treasures humanity could ever fathom ─ the great secret of ourselves, nature, and all created realms! The knowledge we thirst for is spiritual; the material by itself apart from the spiritual is but dust.

God’s Temple and Evil

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2013 by ancienthopes

We have seen that God created His great temple from the very chaotic elements of the watery deep, formless earth, and darkness. The great paradox is that He created something so firm and enduring on something so unstable as the watery deep: “… for he has founded it upon the waters, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:2). This explains the human perception that things are both stable and chaotic at the same time. Again, God’s cosmic temple is not declared “good” because it is devoid of danger and potential ruin, but good for His purposes. Though it is certain God created the chaotic elements (e.g. darkness, Isa. 45;7), it is equally certain He did not create evil which these elements came to symbolize. Evil is not something outside of God’s sovereign plan, for the very structure of the universe with its binary opposites was built to accommodate it. On the other hand, although God can be said to be responsible for His creation as Creator, God is not responsible for evil; its origin lies elsewhere.

The creation narratives as well as the fall narratives (Genesis 3-11) give us no clue at all concerning the origin of evil. We do know, however, that the physical realm “earth” was made at the same time as the “heavens” (Heb. šāmayim). This word is a dual, which, as we have seen already, denotes the upper immovable realm of the stars from the lower heavens of weather and the movable celestial bodies separated by the great dome, or Temple Ceiling. This upper realm of the stars symbolized the spirit world that was made in conjunction with humanity and the material world. The ancients believed that the two worlds, both the spirit world and the physical world, mirrored one another. Events of earthly kingdoms are directly associated with the spiritual world, the world of spirits (e.g. Dan.10:13). If there was a “fall” on earth, this reflected a “fall” in the spirit realm. The ancients naturally understood that the physical and the spiritual were necessarily linked. This understanding is lost to modern thinkers, and so it is that modernity has no reference point when it comes to explaining the existence of evil.

But where in Scripture do we go to see this heavenly “fall”? The two places are found in highly poetic prophetic texts. The earliest text is Isaiah 14:3-20 where the prophet likens Babylon and its king to a star that with pride determined to ascend above all the other stars and make itself God, but was brought low in judgment to sheol, the “underworld” of fallen spirits. The second text is Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre in chapter 28;11-19 where this ancient seafaring nation is likened to a primordial spirit in the heavenly mountain paralleling the garden of Eden that fell through pride. It is clear that this imagery, though applied to historical nations, assumes a fall in the heavenly spiritual realm. Thus we have the ancient cosmological belief in Israel that a mighty spirit rebelled against God in heaven out of its own accord, and thus the origin of evil. (Tolkien in his Silmarillion envisions God creating spirits to move and sing in harmony a song of joy before their creator, powerful and free. One powerful spirit decided to alter the song to its own liking, thus falling out of harmony with the heavenly song. This is apt imagery to describe discord between a created will and the divine will.)

But when did this happen and how does it relate to the human fall? There can really be only one answer for this given what we have said. We must see the heavenly fall and the earthly fall in tandem, for the two realms are inseparable. The heavenly “mountain” of God and the earthly Garden of Eden fell together. “Satan” (if we can give him a name at this point) fell from His exalted position before God by pride, and then determined to corrupt the imago dei in man, recreating him into his own image, the ultimate act of creaturely hubris.

Evil is a product of free will built into the creatures God made. Since God did not make sin, it is alien to nature, and has no necessary link to it. However, God’s cosmic temple was defiled, the holy of holies, the garden planted by God, no longer accessible. Humanity is redeemable because sin did not originate with him, but with angels self-corrupting into demons. The temple still stands, but without the garden, it is diminished in glory, and awaiting its redemption. This “myth” cannot be proven by reason and the “enlightened” reject it out of hand, but there is nothing more sublime in the whole world of human thought than this cosmological framework that these early chapters in Genesis give us.