I just want to say upfront, so there’s no confusion here, that I have come to feel that the most significant barrier to a person’s reading of the Bible is the church. How it’s waved its paw to erase subtlety, explained things in such a child-like manner that people have dropped any desire to be curious or assertive about the words before them, and insisted on being The Experts that must be listened to.
Over the last I-don’t-know-how-many years, I’ve really come to appreciate the Bible. Most of my life it served as my code book: I would search it to find explanations to visions, to confirm them as accurate, to show me my way.
But as I’ve come into old age and now have the confidence to know that the scripture I need will be revealed to me at the right time, I can sit and do what I really like to do: play with words.
There is inside me an aggravating itch to understand the source of evil in our world.
If there is one vision that I can place as the foundation of all understanding of God it is this: God is the creator of all things. So there’s the rub: if God created all things, why is there this disconnect in the Garden of Eden?
God obviously “formed” evil: he had the understanding of it on one of his trees. But what is this “form” all about?
There are very striking differences between the seen world and the unseen world. In the seen world, our world, we run into limitations every time we turn around. Aging, hunger, other people, time, energy, ability. We are nothing but an accumulation of limitations.
And the difference between good and evil is the sharpest of all limitations. Every day good has to figure out ways to maneuver around evil. In our workplaces, our churches, our children’s soccer games, our own homes, even.
Evil is there. Waiting to strip us of our soul energy, our love, our stability.
In this world, evil is both real and tangible.
In the unseen world, however, there is no difference between good and evil in terms of maneuverability. It’s more a matter of training oneself how to cope. How to accomplish one’s goal. How to survive in a spiritual sense.
There are no laws to apply to stop a violation, no hospital to go to when harmed, no couch to sink into when exhausted.
In the unseen world, one is functioning as pure energy. Amidst the universe of other energies.
It just is what it is.
So where is the source of the pure energy that grew into evil?
When I was in seminary studying Christian education, I found that my favorite sources of Old Testament scriptural explanations came from Jewish writers. Writers who knew just how ancient these texts really were, and knew how ancient Hebrew, when it told these stories, told them with very different words than we use today.
I couldn’t get enough of it.
Genesis 1:2: In this passage there is the enigmatic reference to the Spirit hovering over the waters.
I still remember reading that in ancient Hebrew, the waters were chaos. And the Spirit was soothing it.
The ancient Hebrew word for chaos is dragon.
I have used the concept of chaos throughout my life. Dragons and other monsters of the deep are referred to throughout the Bible. And I’ve labeled it all, chaos.
I even saw the serpent as the progenitor of all these dragons and their kin.
And yet I never followed the thread back to its beginning.
The water. Chaos.
And the Spirit who soothes the chaos.
What if a spit of chaos escaped the Spirit’s ministrations? Slipped away? Or would it have oozed?
And what if, like other forms of life did, the serpent became sentient? Became able to understand things? Get a grasp on the matter that God was all about on Earth?
What is never talked about (at least to my ears and eyes) is what actually happened in Eden.
We have two trees and two people. One tree had a plaque on it that read: Do Not Eat The Fruit.
The two people were fine with the restriction until the serpent came along.
You can almost see it, can’t you? Twirling its cane. Whistling its jaunty tune. Hat slightly cocked to one side.
It stands before the innocents and lies and coos and seduces.
Why did the serpent do this?
And why has no one asked this question?
What was the serpent’s motive?
I don’t like inexactness.
I like things to fit.
The other thing people don’t tend to talk about is why did God kick them out of the garden and put a watch of angels at the gate.
The really big deal was around the restriction that the two people were never allowed back into the garden. Why?
The church tends to wave its wand and say, Eden was perfect. So the two were denied continued perfection.
How was Eden perfect?
It had a tree with a library in the form of fruit that explained all about evil. Right there.
Perfection, to me, would be a land without evil in any form whatsoever.
But that’s not Eden.
So why the restriction?
Because of the other tree. The Tree of Life. Of eternal life.
Now whether or not living forever is perfect or not can’t really be determined until it’s experienced. Don’t you agree? I mean, we can pretend to know what it would be like and assume that is the definition of perfection but existence in a body has always been a shock to our systems. Constant surprises. No matter how much we think we know about how the body works we find out every day that we really know next to nothing.
So we’ll put the relationship of eternal life and perfection on the shelf for now.
But I’ve come to think that this never-mentioned tree is what this story is all about.
Eternal life. Combined with the knowledge of good and evil.
Taken together one might think this summed up God. Who has both. And without having to eat a fruit salad to get them.
So we have two people who have limited access to the two trees.
And we have the serpent.
Could it possibly be that the serpent wanted sole access to those trees? And that’s why he figured out the weaknesses of the two inhabitants?
In order to fool them into trespassing against God, get kicked out, and leave the garden and its trees all to him?
So that he can eat all the fruit he wants to and become like God.
Or forget the “like” altogether, and just become God.
Is this the true definition of evil?
The illusion that one can become God.
As I look around the world these days, this is exactly what I see. People who want to be God and rule over the rest of us.
Strip us of our humanity by steeping us in sin. Make virtue something to be derided and laughed at. Reduce us to slaves of their dictates.
Reports circulate regularly about the lengths some of these people go to to achieve God status. Acts that are, in truth, demented procedures that come out of old novels and are taken for real.
We are facing a time when false gods have come to life, literally.
No wonder there is a commandment that addresses this very thing.
It’s not an ancient phenomenon.
It’s here right now and right here.
And God spake all these words, saying,
I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or that is in the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.