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 The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what BioLogos believes 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.