Friday, April 23, 2010

Imponderable Friday

One day my wife and I were talking and she suddenly asked me something regarding one of the most well-known stories in the Bible: the Garden of Eden. A story you and I and everyone else have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Here’s the kicker:

In my 35 years of following Jesus I had never even thought of the question she asked me.

And so on that note I’m initiating a new semi-regular feature that I’m calling “Imponderable Friday” (see below for the actual question…).

This blog so far has focused mostly on the “Believer” part of “The Skeptical Believer.” In these segments I want to look at the other half of that equation. As I said in my very first post, although I am firmly committed to faith in Jesus and belief in His divinity, there are many issues that I have questions and doubts about.

Some of these ‘questions’ are merely reaction to the “official party line” that often exists in American Christianity. There are lots of ideas and concepts that “everybody knows are true”…but that simply aren’t, at least in my opinion.

For example: 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a very famous verse. I hear people all the time using that verse as God’s promise to America, and yet it simply does not apply to this country. God was speaking to Solomon in a very specific time about a very specific country, and to universalize that verse to include the USA is simply un-biblical. It may apply in some general way, and it certainly is a good thing to hope for, but to act as if God is promising that to us today is flat-out wrong.

Anyway, Imponderable Friday is meant to bring up and discuss various odds and ends, strange things I’ve thought of over the years and, well, the imponderables of the faith. I don’t mean things like sovereignty vs. free-will—i.e. major theological issues that have been vigorously debated for thousands of years. I mean weird, random, and offbeat things that only a weird, random, and offbeat kind of guy could think of.

Why do it on Friday? Because it’s just in time for you to annoy your pastor with an out-of-left-field question on Sunday!

Seriously though, my intent in these posts is not to cause you to question or doubt your faith, but to hopefully help you break out of the box that we all find ourselves thinking in after a long time of looking at the world in a certain way. There are only a very few issues in Christianity that are worth holding the hill and dying on (the Resurrection being the first and foremost—thus why I spent so much time on it). All the rest (my estimation? 90%) is food for thought, reflection, and debate, and sincere believers of all stripes can have differing opinions on them while still remaining brothers and sisters in the faith. We often find ourselves falling into several Christian “myths” and groupthink without even realizing it, and we need to shatter these notions in order to be fresh and open to hearing the voice of God in our lives.

As promised, the first Imponderable I have actually comes via my wife, not me. One of the things I enjoy about my wife’s faith is that she didn’t come into it until much later in life than me, who was basically born a Christian. Therefore, she often asks many different questions than I even think to. It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes when she’ll ask me, “So why is it that ______” and my only response can be, “You know, I’ve never even thought of that!” And I’m supposedly the expert by way of my much longer tenure!

It does make sense though, as she is much fresher in her thinking than I am. She didn’t grow up in Sunday school learning all the stories and Christian tropes like I did (the word “tropes” being used in the sense given here). She also grew up in an intellectually rigorous family who never believed what they were told simply because someone “in authority” told them it was true. That’s a trait that MANY of us, of all beliefs, would do well to emulate.

I really like it when she asks me these questions, though, because it helps me to sharpen and hone my own faith. As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another, I believe a wise person once said…

So…back to Eden. I do believe the story references an actual event that happened at the beginning of human history, but for my purposes it doesn’t really matter whether the story of Eden is literally true or whether it’s an allegory of a true event. That is not a die-on-this-hill issue to me.

We all know the story of the Fall of Man. Eve eats the forbidden fruit, Adam takes it and eats it also. God asks them what happened, and humanity’s first spin-doctoring occurs. The man blames the woman, the woman blames the serpent—its the very first Men-are-from-Mars-Women-are-from-Venus moment. Neither of them cop to any responsibility, and thus their communion with God is broken.

My wife and I were talking about this one day, and then she asked me the question:

What if Adam and Eve had simply apologized to God and asked forgiveness?

We all know that God is in the redemption and forgiveness business (see 1 John 1:9). He delights in restoring relationships—us to each other and to Him.

Would human history have been radically changed had they simply owned up to their failing?

What do you think?

Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.


  1. Look at King David. God forgave him and called him a man after his own heart. At the same time, sin causes consequences that must be endured. Adam & Eve sinned, they started us on a one way course towards entropy (2nd Law of Thermodynamics!). I believe God would forgive Adam & Eve if they asked for it and my guess is they did. Unfortunately "perfection" was now distorted, and there was no going back to the way it used to be.

  2. Great question.

    I don't believe that Adam and Eve asking for forgiveness at that point would have changed anything, and here's why:

    In Genesis 2:16-17, God clearly points out what the consequences are to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: that if they eat from it, they will "surely die".

    The character of God is such that he always always always keeps His promises. No matter how much remorse Adam and Eve may have felt, no matter how much they apologized, no matter how much it may haved pained God to send them out from the garden, He was merely keeping His promise.

    Asking for - and even receiving - God's forgiveness does not excuse us from having to face the consequences of our actions.

    It's the same with my children. If I plainly state to them the consequences of a certain action (for example, if you stay out with your friends past 11 p.m. you will be grounded for a week) and they do it anyway, I will enforce the promised consequence. It does not mean that they are not loved. It does not mean that they are not forgiven. It simply means that they are now facing the consequences of their actions.

    I'm thankful that despite our fallen nature, God still loves us and, as you mentioned, is willing to forgive us. We will still be responsible for our actions, but the door is always open to forgiveness and, ultimately, salvation.

    That's my two cents...thanks for asking!

  3. I agree with Larry. God will forgive us if we ask, but there are consequences for sin.

    When God went "searching" for them in the Garden after they sinned, He already knew what Adam and Eve had done; yet He says, "What did you do?" Even so, when He punished them, God was gracious to them. They thought that they were going to die on the spot; and although there were severe consequences for their sins, God still promised the woman that the Seed -- Christ -- would come through her! So even though Adam and Eve messed up, God was merciful. I'm not sure whether Adam and Eve asked for forgiveness (the Bible doesn't say), but I think that if they had just been obedient in that one thing, they -- and generations to come -- could have walked with God in perfection for the rest of their lives! And if they had asked for forgiveness, I'm sure God would have forgiven them; but, as Larry said, there are still consequences for sin. I believe that God knew that Adam and Eve would mess up; it was God's plan originally to send Jesus as the Savior of the world. A similar example was with Pharoah; God said "For this purpose I have raised you up, that I might show forth my power in you." And then Paul says, "Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He wills, He hardens." (see Rom 9:17-18) This does not mean that God hardens people's hearts; it means that God already knows who will harden his heart and who will obey. I believe this was the case with Adam and Eve, too. After all, God is not a "Mr. Fix-it"; when we mess up, there are consequences. But somehow, God always finds a way to make His will come to pass. In other words, our actions do not effect God's plan; they might mess it up (and consequently effect other people or circumstances), but they don't change it. He can find some other avenue to accomplish His will, as is evidenced throughout history. That's my opinion...

  4. Yeah~ when God said "IF you eat..... you will surley die" I think that was the kicker. But also one of the first amazing graces of God is that He had compassion on them and clothed them. He also didn't kill them right there on the spot. I've learned we can't deny that evil exists... but that we have 1 power over it and 2 have to learn how to live with it.
    That's just the way it is.
    And I DO think 2nd Chronichles 7:14 CAN be applied to USA, or anyone for that matter- if we are in sin, or dealing wickedly, and confess, repent and ask Him for mercy, He will surly show it. That is the kindof God that He is. (Merciful)

  5. Excellent comments all. I agree with your assessments, what you said is basically the conclusion we came to as well. But it's interesting to think about such things isn't it? As I said, that thought had never crossed my mind before!

    i angel, regarding the 2Chron reference. Like I said, I believe that we can look at that verse in a *general* way. You're certainly right that the Lord is merciful and loves to forgive. The problem is when people start using this verse to refer to a *specific promise* that God has made America. He was not making that specific promise to all nations in general. It was a very specific promise made to one nation--Israel--and at only one point in history. He may indeed heal the land of all who repent and seek His face, but this is because of His loving and restorative nature, not because of the words He spoke to Solomon in 2 Chronicles. If you go back and read the entire chapter in full it becomes even clearer that He is referring only to the nation of Israel at the time He was speaking.

  6. I think nothing will change. God will forgive them, but will let them face the consequences of what they did. His mercy will let them bear the sufferings, and He will send His Son to redeem us all.
    If we ask God For His mercy and forgiveness, He always give it to us. But He let us experience the consequences because He wants us to learn and be strong, He wants us to trust Him, and soon will fix things for us.

  7. @Christian I agree, even if God forgives, He still gives the consequences of our actions because if not, we will just depend on saying sorry everytime we make a mistake.

  8. Here's a thought -- it's an excerpt from the book Brida by Paulo Coelho:

    "Life is about making mistakes," said the Teacher. "...It was a mistake that set the world in motion. Never be afraid of making a mistake."

    "But Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise."

    "And they will return one day knowing the miracle of the heavens and of all the world. God knew what he was doing when he drew their attention to the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If he hadn't wanted them to eat it, he would never have mentioned it."

  9. That didn't crossed my mind also. It makes sense. What if Adam and Eve just apologized to God? God is very forgiving and He loves us very much. If they apologized maybe the whole is very different now. I've read many writings about God and I don't know which of them are true but. Is it true that man who betrayed Jesus is His best friend. I've read an article saying that the prophecy should be done. None of His disciples will take the role as the betrayer so the Guy took it. I have many questions in my mind too. I have many "whys" and "what ifs"..and do you believe everything happens with a purpose? or ti is just man's way to justify the situation?