According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story of Genesis as Wisdom Literature, Part 2

The Last Judgment (Garden), Bosch

Fall, or Folly? (2): A Wisdom Story

by Chaplain Mike
November 11, 2014

St. Irenaeus (2nd century) described Adam and Eve as “adolescents.” They were not “perfect” in the sense of “complete.” They represent a beginning and an intention – but something that not only remained unfulfilled – but even something that had deviated from its intended path. From “mud commanded to become Gods,” they became beings unable to be truly human. Death and corruption mark their existence. The stories in Genesis include fratricide among their children. The early chapters of Genesis are not the record of a promising start – they are the record of the start of promises.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, “From Mud to Light – the Saving Work of Christ”

The Last Judgment (Serpent and Tree), Bosch


We do not normally think of the Book of Proverbs as a work of deep theological content. We think of it as a collection of sayings, practical in nature, giving sound advice for living. But portions of the book go far beyond that.

Take Proverbs 1-9 for instance, which form an extended meditation on the nature and blessings of divine Wisdom (personified), urging the young in particular to open their ears and hearts to receive her teachings so that they will “fear the Lord,” become wise in their lives and dealings, and find the reward of “life.”

Proverbs teaches “the simple” (the young, morally unformed, susceptible to temptation) to listen to and follow “wisdom” (fear the Lord and follow his instructions), because listening to wisdom is the path to “life” and failing to do so leads to “death.”

One characteristic of wisdom literature is that its teachings are rooted in creation more than in covenant. That is, they reflect on the world and life and the characteristics of people and how they relate to each other. Its counsels derive from observation, not from special revelation. To put it simply, wisdom posits that God designed creation and life to work in certain ways. The wise person trusts God and seeks to order his or her life according to those ways. He or she “trusts in the Lord with a whole heart.” The foolish person disregards God and seeks to live “leaning on his or her own understanding.”

I suggested in the previous post that the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is a wisdom story. Those who composed and edited the Hebrew Bible in its final form were concerned that the post-exilic community learn wisdom about their past, present, and future. So they told the first stories about people in the Bible using wisdom terms and metaphors to make their message clear from the start.

This same language and imagery is prevalent in other wisdom literature, like Proverbs. Here are a few examples:

The story of Adam and Eve has been often portrayed as the story of two perfect people in perfect conditions who “fell” into a state of corruption and mortality and plunged all creation into such a condition because of rebellion. But “fall” is not really the best description, or at least the most accurate description of what this story teaches.

Instead, Genesis 3 tells how God set boundaries for two children (or adolescents, as Irenaeus suggested) who are “simple” — youthful, naïve, inexperienced, morally unformed, and susceptible to temptation.
  • Look at them: “naked and not ashamed,” like children who don’t even know enough to be embarrassed as they frolic about without clothing.
  • Look at them: enticed by a treat that looks good, that promises to taste good, something that engages a childlike curiosity which knows no caution.
  • Look at them: easily distracted from their parent’s warning by a cleverer, wiser tempter.
  • Look at them: persuaded into transgressing the boundaries set for them without even thinking.
This is not the “fall” of the perfect. This is Pinocchio, led astray by Lampwick at Pleasure Island!


[T]he Adam story is not about a fall down from perfection, but a failure to grow up to godly wisdom and maturity. Adam and Eve weren’t like perfect super humans. They were like young, naïve children, who were meant to grow into obedience, but were tricked into following a different path.

...The serpent tricked Adam and Eve into gaining wisdom too soon, apart from God’s way. They were naïve children who did not have the shrewdness to withstand the serpent’s craftiness. They should have just trusted their maker. The knowledge of good and evil isn’t wrong, but getting it free from God’s direction is death. Without the maturity that comes from obeying God, Adam and Eve can’t handle the truth (said in our best Jack Nicholson voice).

This is the point of this story: the choice put before Adam and Eve is the same choice put before Israel every day: learn to listen to God and follow in his ways and then— only then— you will live. The story of Adam and Eve makes this point in the form of a story; Proverbs makes it in the form of wisdom literature; Israel’s long story in the Old Testament makes it in the form of history writingByas and Enns, Genesis for Normal People


This story was intended first for Israel, who throughout their history followed the same patterns set by Adam and Eve and then by their children Cain and Abel and were likewise sent off into exile from God’s good land.

But one effect of reading this as a wisdom story is that it tends to universalize its message. Jew and Gentile alike, we recognize ourselves in the stories of Adam and Eve and their children. As one of our commenters said in yesterday’s thread - "Adam is everyman. And Eve is everywoman. These stories reveal the universal human susceptibility to temptation. We all show ourselves to be simpletons, in need of divine wisdom."

As Pinocchio found out, no one becomes a “real boy” without first realizing he’s made a jackass of himself at Pleasure Island.

We all need to learn: “Trust in the Lord with a whole heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

And specifically, we must put off the old foolish Adam who leads us to death and put on the new man, Christ, “who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption“ (1Cor 1:30). He is our Tree of Life.

continue to -

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