Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Three-agent Universe (2) Genesis

A good example of the two-agent universe view is our understanding of Genesis 1-3. The writers saw this as a two-agent problem. Many preachers claim that Adam and Eve's sin created a barrier between them and God. God hated their sin so much that he cannot look on them. They came under his wrath and anger and need to appease him before they can be at peace with him. One preacher described this as "one strike and you are out".

If we read the passage through a three-agent lens, we get a totally different view of what is happening. The reality is that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, his attitude did not change. He still came into the garden to meet with them, and he spoke to them in the same way as he did before. There is no evidence of hostility towards them (Gen 3:8). It was Adam and Eve who had the problem. They felt shame for the first time and tried to hide from God. This is the human problem. Sin causes us to feel shame, so we run away from God.

God asked some tough questions as any father would do. Where are you? What have you done? Who tricked you? God was establishing that the spiritual powers of evil were the problem. They had tricked the humans into submitting to them. This gave the spiritual powers of evil authority over the earth.

God did not angrily pronounce a judgment on the humans for their failure. He was not punnishing them for their disobedience. Rather, like a good father, he sadly explained the consequences of their disobedience. They had submitted to the spiritual powers of evil, so bad things would happen. The women would be dominated and sometimes abused by her husband. The spiritual powers of evil had gained authority over the earth, so they would mess up God's creation with nasty weeds and climatic events.

God was not cursing humans. He was simply explaining the consequence of human actions. They had submitted to the powers of evil, so things would go wrong for them and their descendants. God was explaining that they had lost his protection, so the outcome would not be nice.

There is a serious difference in tone between Gen 3:23 and Gen 3:24. If we take a two-agent view, we miss the distinction.

Gen 3:23 explains God's action.

The LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
This is very calm. He simply sent them out into the earth, which was always the plan. God never intended Adam to stay in the garden. Once they learnt how to care for the garden, he intended that they would move out into the rest of the world and establish his garden there.

God's name is not used in Gen 3:24, although many translators included it. The tone of the verse is blunt and harsh. I believe this explains the event from the devil's perspective.

He drove the man out and stationed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24).
The devil drove humans out of the garden because he hated them and wanted to destroy them.

Readers assume that God put a guard around the tree of life, but the translation of this verse is not certain. The word translated flashing back and forth is "haphak". The primary meaning of this word is overturn or pervert. The message of this verse may be that "perverted" cherubim had seized control of the tree of life when human submission gave the spiritual powers of evil authority on earth. Much of what happened in Old Testament times was the work of the powers of evil. If we miss that we end up blaming God for evil that he did not do.

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