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Genesis Two Rewrites, Part 2

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August 2, 2011 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin
Genesis Two Rewrites, Part 2

Today's entry was written by Stephen Rodeheaver. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In part one of this two part series, professor and pastor Steve Rodeheaver presented the view that by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve became “like God,” and ever since humanity has been creating its own system of moral order, rather than following God’s. “To live ‘out-of-order,’” he writes, “is to destroy one’s place and one’s self. It is to transgress one’s life-receiving place with the LORD God.”

Today, he delves into the text even deeper as he explores what Genesis two has to say about marriage. What does this have to do with the BioLogos mission? We are deeply concerned that Evangelicals may not have been taking the Genesis text seriously enough. In defending Genesis as though it contains scientific information and as though it resembles a “newspaper account” of origins, many foundational principles may be left unexplored. Harmony between faith and science will come as we increasingly understand what God really wants to say to us through Genesis. God is not giving us a science lesson, but God is laying out a set of foundations which are profoundly more significant. Regardless of whether we all agree with Professor Rodeheaver’s specific conclusions, hopefully we can all agree that the approach he demonstrates leads ever closer to the heart and mind of God. (Introduction by Darrel Falk)

Perhaps this ordering and re-ordering discussed in the previous post can best be understood in narrative terms. As noted above the creation story of Genesis 2 is very much a marriage story, and by virtue of its being a creation story, it is the marriage story. This is the narrative that orders what marriage is and who it is between. It is the narrative that orders marriage as the only place appropriate for sexual intimacy. It is the narrative that orders the marriage relationship as taking precedence over the parental relationship. It is the narrative that orders the husband-wife relationship as corresponding to the rib of a man (the wife protects the heart of the man, the man protects the life of his wife; side-by-side companionship in which one completes the other). It is the narrative that orders marriage as creating a one-flesh family bond.

Having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we are “capable” of numerous re-writes of the Genesis 2 marriage narrative. In fact, we see the first re-write in Genesis 4 where Lamech takes two wives for himself and brags to them about committing a murder ten times worse than Cain killing Abel. This disorderly re-write gets larger (and deadlier) in Genesis 6 where the powerful “sons of God” start building harems from the daughters of men. The LORD is filled with grief enough to let loose all those waters separated in Genesis 1. This side of the flood we see tragedy after tragedy throughout the Old Testament as men attempt to re-write Genesis 2 by taking multiple women, from Abraham with Hagar to Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines. In each of these cases it does not matter how culturally appropriate or politically astute the new narrative is. Its result is always strife and chaos at best, and the leading astray and eventual death of a kingdom at worst.

In the Gospels when Jesus is questioned about divorce, the place he goes is Genesis 1 and 2. Jesus goes back to the marriage narrative as he addresses his contemporary audience. Divorce, while it may happen, is not of God’s good, moral ordering of marriage. Genesis 2’s “one flesh” is to be the narrative that is normative for our marriages, the narrative into which we live – not the narrative of divorce.

From Paul’s letters we see that he had to address numerous situations in which believers were not ordering their lives towards Genesis 2. He calls the churches at Thessalonica as well as Corinth to adhere to the Genesis 2 ordering of marriage as the only place appropriate for sexual intimacy. In addressing both the church at Corinth and the church at Rome he makes it clear that same-sex intimacy is an ordering that runs counter to the marriage narrative of Genesis 2. Thus, whether on the lips of Jesus or from the pen of Paul, the New Testament church understood Genesis 2 as the God-created ordering of marriage and sexual intimacy. All other rival constructions were deemed sinful, destructive, and ultimately deadly. Believers were called to repent of such narratives and to live into Genesis 2.

Today we face all kinds of Genesis 2 re-writes as humanity attempts to re-determine good and evil. Whether in the form of highly sexualized commercials or same-sex marriage legislation or a husband’s right to abuse his own wife or a men-are-evil-and-useless sentiment, we are individually and collectively at work constructing deadly, disordered narratives that seem as harmless as that appealing fruit. But each of these re-writes, while having the capacity to narrate the living of a culture, begin from a place of disorder, a place that is sideways with the good place the LORD God created for us, and thus they actually narrate the death of a people.

It is imperative for believers today, for the sake of the church and for the sake of the world, to repent from all such narratives that run counter to Genesis 2. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that knowing good and evil, we can actually re-order marriage and sexual intimacy to a way more suitable to our particular narratives, to a way that will enhance the quality of our lives and make our societies more just. We must return to the One who ordered good and evil in creation, to the One who through His Son redeemed us from all the hostile powers and futile narratives of our own makings, to the One who gives His Spirit to empower us to embrace and live Genesis 2 no matter how disorderly our lives may have become. Being in Christ does not mean that we can re-write Genesis 2. Quite the opposite. Being in Christ means that our lives can be re-written and re-ordered to conform to the good, life-full narrative of Genesis 2.

May Christ our Lord and Savior conform us to his good ordering. Amen.

Stephen Rodeheaver is the senior pastor of Southeast Church of the Nazarene in San Diego, California, and a visiting associate professor in the department on theology and Christian ministry at Point Loma Nazarene University. He is the author of Snapshots of the Kingdom: Glimpses of Heaven on Earth.

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Merv - #63622

August 2nd 2011

In our particular culture (U.S.) unmarried men tend to be seen as having slightly lesser social status than married men.  Many tend to carry around that question in the back of their minds:  “so what’s wrong with him ...” when encountering older unmarried men who aren’t married.  Certainly our society has been centered around a marriage family unit, though as you describe, our culture is always busy trying to dissolve any limiting definitions of marriage.

So ...  I think it interesting that Paul turns even this on its head and holds out marriage itself as a concession—- a concession to those who can’t control themselves and burn with passion.  For Paul, who wished that all could remain as he was (unmarried), being singly devoted to God was the highest possible calling, and marriage held the danger of interfering with your devotion to God.  Granted, everyone thought that end times were at hand and investing long term in fields or family were probably discouraged during this religiously charged time.  Still, I think Paul’s stated preference for avoiding marriage (and wishing the same for others who were able to follow this higher calling) make an interesting antidote to our drive for connubial relationships.  And Jesus focus’ on Genesis 2 serves as our reassurance that, yes, our seeking such relationship is what God had in mind.  Thanks for your essay—I found it quite thought provoking.

Merv - #63623

August 2nd 2011

...  as opposed to older unmarried men who are married!

Sheesh ... I guess I should proof read my posts before hitting the submit button.
Roger A. Sawtelle - #63624

August 2nd 2011

While I agree with much of what is stated Genesis is certainly about more than the marriage relationship.

eddy - #63627

August 2nd 2011

Grim for such a clear and good commentary on Genesis 2, the dearth of comments on these two piece series by professor and pastor Roderheaver is rather remarkable.

’‘Does biologos take a particular stance on marriage as discussed in today’s piece, for example? The answer, of course, is no.

The opinion afterward following this pre-warning by Dr. Falk strikes me as disconnected to the reality that evangelicals in their haste to read Genesis as a ‘‘newspaper’’ account ignore basic theological lessons. It is not clear to whom that criticism is directed especially if those evangelicals constantly accused of taking scriptural narration as a newspaper account are nearly the same evangelicals who stand firmly with the views of marriage expressed to be orderly basic according to scriptures.

’‘God is not giving us a science lesson, but God is laying out a set of foundations which are profoundly more significant’‘.

Separating science and theological lessons this way is not helpful. The serious view that a one-to-one function of marriage is a basic lesson to be learnt when reading Genesis 2 is because the scripture is read naturally this way to be God’s direct and historic activity that at the beginning God created one man and one woman and united them as such and that’s it. To say that God here is not telling us science but speaking to us profound truths now that is unnecessary muddle created by this way of thinking. Is it science or is it truth? Really confusing.

Darrel F - #63629

August 3rd 2011

Hi Eddy,

Here is the point I was making.  Have you ever heard a discussion of the point that Steve is making here?  Have you ever heard a sermon on the question: “What does it mean when God says that by eating of the fruit, they (Adam and Eve) will become ‘like one of us.’”  I don’t think I ever have, and I have been around for quite a long time.

Why have most of us never asked that question of the text?  Could it be because we’re giving undue attention to a detractor?

Or here is another example:  What is the significance of Eve’s specific temptation?  How does that relate to you and me?  Eve was lured to eat of the fruit which would distance her from God by one thing—that in so doing she could become ‘like God.’  What did that mean to Eve?  What does that mean to us—you and me?  Is this ever your temptation?  It is mine every day.  I am tempted daily to put myself on the “throne of my life,” a place that, in God’s ideal plan, is reserved for him and him alone. Eve’s temptation is mine and I face it daily.  I suspect we all do.

Have you seen this truth in the Genesis account?  If so, you are a wiser person than I have been, Eddy.  

What about the “naked and no shame” question and how does that relate to their attempt to cover-up after the sin?  Have you ever been in a Bible discussion group that spent the needed six or seven weeks just on what all of this entails?  It relates to marriage, it relates to how we live our lives, it relates to what God wants for us, it relates to heaven, it relates to hell on earth as we spend our lives trying to cover up our guilt and shame.  God wants to tell us about all this; it’s all right there in the second and third chapters of the Bible.  Instead, we focus on a couple of our pet projects:  God created Adam from dust on Day six, and Eve from Adam’s rib, later that day.  God made one man and one woman and that’s God’s plan for marriage.  End of discussion.  

Do you see my point, Eddy?  It is my opinion, that we in the church have been so focused on Genesis as journalistic account, that we’ve missed much of what God wants to say to us.  
Jon Garvey - #63630

August 3rd 2011

Darrel, your points underline how un-seriously the Bible is taken in many churches. The tendency is to decide what message you want to give, and then co-opt the Scripture (a verse or two, maybe) to support it. But it isn’t universally so.

At the church I was in before I retired, just a small village Evangelical church, for many years we had no trained pastorate. But we did have a team that met weekly to prepare the teaching in the form of serial exposition. We spent, maybe, somewhere from 20-25 weeks on Genesis 1-11 about 20 years ago, and rapidly realised that since it wasn’t about astronomy or evolution we’d have to work hard to see what it actually did say, as it was a foundational text.

As a result, one guy who’d dreaded doing the series because of the fear of getting bogged down in days of creation and “lumps of protoplasm” remembers it as one of the most practically useful things we did. We had to cover the things you mention because we were given those verses. There wasn’t a week where grappling with the text didn’t overturn “what we’d always known.” And it changed lives.

All to do with letting sharp two-edged swords out of the scabbard, it seems to me.

eddy - #63633

August 4th 2011

Dr. Falk, yes I now see your point which is centered on the idea that
the today usefulness of the stories in the early Genesis  do not
necessarily depend on fanatical fixation to those particular stories.
Fair enough. But reciprocally, if  we acknowledge that the stories in
early Genesis are conveying to us something indispensably significant to
human existence there must be a thought mechanism that will prevent
those who treat these stories as little better than myths to be
interpreted modernly any which way even if scholarly—some go even
further mockingly to treat them as musings of uncultured people.

And what is the significance of Eve’s specific temptation?  How does
that relate to you and me? Well, it is just right in there, as you also
said it,  to use your own words, that ‘‘Eve’s temptation is mine and I
face it daily’‘. Some people are even more curiouser to know why Eve’s
situation should be it that way to us and the answer is also given in
there as Eve ...’’ would become the mother of all the living.’’ I
would argue that much of our problems in the church isn’t so much that
we are busy treating Genesis as journalistic account as it is about
questioning the factual legitimacy of the account itself.

Darrel F - #63634

August 4th 2011

Hi Eddy, 

You said,

“I would argue that much of our problems in the church isn’t so much that we are busy treating Genesis as journalistic account as it is questioning the factual legitimacy of the account itself.” 

My point Eddy is that God wants believers to be eating “solid food” and, as Paul puts it, it seems that all we want to do is sip on milk.  There are plenty of problems in the church and the answer to them all is for each believer to draw closer to the heart and mind of God.  I wish we could get past the state of “Is the Genesis passage literal or is it figurative?” and move on to the day when, the real question becomes, “What does God want to say to me….to me…personally through this passage?” You may already succeeded at that, Eddy, but I’ve only begun to explore the riches that I find exist in these passages and, indeed, throughout the entire Bible.
Merv - #63631

August 3rd 2011

“<meta http-equiv=“content-type” content=“text/html; charset=utf-8”><span class=“Apple-style-span”>All to do with letting sharp two-edged swords out of the scabbard, it seems to me.”

I like that, Jon—& with your permission may want to recycle that phrase.
Well, I have heard lectures at least, if not sermons on Genesis two.  And those lectures were not from a trained theologian (I don’t think) but from an agrarian (Wes Jackson  —influenced by Wendell Berry) who had ideas about how our temptations and rebellion affected our care for the earth (& its provision for us).  I don’t remember the details of their application verse by verse, but I do remember he had pretty specific ideas about the significance of each event in the creation account as it relates to our place on and with this planet.  I think it is another indicator of the power of the text when it is so “co-optible” for different contexts and perspectives.  It connects with people who want to “unsheath” it even through their own glasses of expertise or areas of knowledge.
Jon Garvey - #63632

August 3rd 2011

I think both swords and scabbards are off-patent, Merv!

I’m sure you’re right about the flexibility of the Bible text, which is capable of delivering saving truth even when mercilessly abused. Part of that, I think, is the informational redundancy (in the Shannon sense) - the most important things are said a thousand different ways. Inspiration and the Holy Spirit no doubt play a part as well…

There’s that oft-quoted bit by Augustine (which is about Genesis) to the effect that there may be many different interpretations consistent with the rule of faith. Having said that, there’s also a lot of reckless sword-swinging even amongst academics that may be less consistent with it!

Papalinton - #63635

August 4th 2011

While some might agree that the story of Adam and Eve is pure fiction, still others regard it as a storehouse of Truth about who we are, why we are here, and how things got the way they are, things that Roger [at comment #63624] notes,  “Genesis is certainly about more than the marriage relationship”.

And each has the right to do so. But the ‘truth’ of the story is not universally acknowledged at all,  even internally among theists in the same camp.  And thus, the Genesis 2 theological ‘truth’ continues to be open to abuse, misuse, and variability, with little or no recourse to correction or change or modification,  just as the literalists will continue to remind us all. 
Yes, while one may regard it as a storehouse of truth about who we are, why we are here, and how things got the way they are, the irony is that this ‘truth’ is different for so many others who hold a vastly different truth about the exact same narrative. And in that case, can we justifiably continue calling it a ‘truth’?

That people, even modern and smart people, use myths to guide their current actions and decisions is easy and amusing to see. One of the most spectacular examples can be found in the contemporary American debate over gay marriage. Many if not most christians base their position on [opposition to] gay marriage on religious grounds, sometimes explicitly stating that “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.” Thus, this ‘first marriage’ serves as a model and charter for all subsequent marriages. What is unusually hilarious about this case is how christians use only the *gender* of the first couple as a charter but not any other characteristics about them: perhaps only men and women who are naked should marry each other, or perhaps men should only marry women who are made out of their rib; or perhaps men should only marry women who can hold a conversation with snakes.

So, the question is, who’s truth is more ‘truthier’ or the ‘truthiest’ in respect of this story?

Papalinton - #63636

August 4th 2011

Gay, gay gay.
I cannot believe in the 21stC the level of censorial action exhibited by Biologos as to be so anti-social and a mark of denialism in extreme.
Surely in this day and age, there is nothing wrong with the word g-a-y.  

This degree of censorship speaks volumes about BioLogos’ participation in active discrimination and the direct abuse of the rights of people, who through circumstances not of their choosing are to considered less than human, that their common usage name is censored off the site.

Christians on this site must clim their disapproval for BioLogos to allow such discrimination.  It is a damning mark of depraved and perverse social engagement that is not acceptable in a modern diverse society.
Darrel Falk - #63637

August 4th 2011

The censoring system is built into the system that hosts our website (as well as many others).  It has nothing to do with BioLogos

Papalinton - #63638

August 4th 2011

As if by a miracle, machine intelligence built in the mechanism by which all the naughty un-christian words are all filtered out.  And it has nothing to do with BioLogos.  Yeah.  Right!

Darrel Falk - #63639

August 4th 2011


I will check to see what is involved in modifying it.  Obviously, if our system won’t accept the word, g-a-y, that is r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s.

G8torBrent - #63695

August 8th 2011

In seminary, I had an absolutely deadpan professor (Philosophy of Religion) whose droll expression never altered behind his full salt-and-pepper beard, and whose sad eyes never showed a sparkle of emotion (except, perhaps, to exude more sadness when talking about Patsy Cline). One day, he said the following in class during a discussion of contemporary Christian thinkers:

“Some people will say that C.S. Lewis was a homosexual. I don’t like to use the word ‘gay.’ Don’t get me wrong; I like the word ‘gay.’ I think it’s a fine word. [beat] I wish the queers hadn’t take it over.”

Possibly the funniest moment I experienced in my four years there.
G8torBrent - #63696

August 8th 2011

Drats. The ###### represents a word used by and about said homosexuals and it rhymes with “steers.” Oh well, nothing like an automatic filter ruining a punch line. (PS - He meant it to be ironic.)

Stephen Mapes - #63641

August 4th 2011

We used a pre-complied list for the built in word censor, but have slowly found it was a bit “overzealous”, to say the least. Most likely they included gay for its potential pejorative use in certain internet circles, but as you rightly put, it’s absurd to have it censored in honest, intellectual discussion about homosexuality.

Gay has been removed from the censor list, and if you feel there are other words that should not be on it, please let us know.

EDIT: The filter won’t update until the website’s cache cycles, so the error will be there for the next hour or two. Rest assured it has been changed though.

Papalinton - #63647

August 4th 2011

Thanks much BioLogos.

Being right in deed is as important as right in thought.
Much appreciated.
KevinR - #63687

August 8th 2011

Seems like you want to open the can of worms that is called homosexual behaviour. As far as the plain straightforward reading of the bible goes, it’s out of the window. Not allowed by God. In fact, it’s seen as an abomination. It’s sexually immoral since it’s sexual intercourse between two persons who do not fit the marriage description in Genesis 2 - that between one man to one woman - as fits their physical makeup.

If you choose not to believe what the bible says, that’s your own responsibility as far as the eternal results are concerned. There is no abuse of people’s rights when one simply points out what the bible says.
Ask yourself this question: Whose rights are being abused when a gay person knowingly goes against the norm, secretly becomes a pastor/minister and then begins to propagate the idea that the church should accept such behaviour as loving and good in the eyes of God and that people should not point out the obvious sin because it has become “hurtful”? Is it not the right of those people who do not condone such obvious SIN to try and get the person to repent? After all, the church was established through bible believing people - so why does the unbelieving person want to force his opinion on those who chooses to follow God’s prescriptions? Why don’t they go and establish their own church or organization instead of wanting to hijack existing structures? Just who is trampling on who’s rights?

Further - if someone is addicted to shoplifting - they can also claim exactly the same “right” as your homosexually active person - that God made them that way. Same goes for those who prey sexually on small children. Or those who like to kill for pleasure. Or those who LIE. Or those who like a certain well-known golfer want to sow their seed everywhere. They can all claim that God made them that way. What specific right does homosexually active people have that is so special? Please explain.

Papalinton - #63706

August 9th 2011

“After all, the church was established through bible believing people - so why does the unbelieving person want to force his opinion on those who chooses to follow God’s prescriptions?”

Because it is right, it is fair, it is equitable, it is justice.  To follow god’s prescriptions is only a charade that perpetuates  anti-human, unethical and immoral discriminatory and anti-social behaviour in the guise of or dressed up as religious belief.

Kevin R, suck it up and become a human, just as the NewYorkers have recently and decently done so.
DanB - #63761

August 11th 2011

Very well put.

DanB - #63762

August 11th 2011

I was referring to KevinR putting it well, not Papalinton who seems to not be aware of the contradictions in what he writes.

JimFisherHome - #63715

August 9th 2011

The cultural norm in our society (for adults, at least) is that it’s OK to have sex after the second or third date. It is very difficult to live counter to this norm, either as a woman or as a man. If I had never had sex while I was single and if I had never been divorced and if I had never had an adulterous thought, I guess I would feel justified in pointing a finger of judgment. But as it stands, if I were to point my finger at any other such rewriting of Genesis in someone else’s behavior, I would quickly realize that there are three fingers pointed toward me. I prefer not to take sides on this, even though the taste of the forbidden fruit of the knowledge that makes judgment possible lingers hauntingly on my lips.

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