Friday, October 2, 2009

unOriginal Sin

I'm a Christian and consider myself more or less a fundamentalist. In my case that means I believe the Bible is true and tells literal, objective, truths. Like many things in life, though, that's not without qualification or exception. Even the most conservative Bible believer would have to admit that some things in the Bible are not intended to be taken literally but, rather, are figurative, symbolic or allegorical. It is hard to imagine that most of what is in the Book of Revelation will occur exactly as it is written and described. Jesus told parables to explain principles, but they weren't stories that had actually occurred as told.

For the last few years, I've had to come to grips with this issue as it pertains to the creation story told in the Book of Genesis, man's origins, God's role in our creation, evolution, etc. Lately I've settled comfortably into accepting that the Bible as a whole, and Genesis in particular, can be (and is) true in its essence but not literally true in every respect. Being frank, I do not believe, for instance that the entire earth and all the creatures on it were created in 6 (human) days within the last 10,000 or so years. I do not take as scientific fact that woman was created from the rib of man or that Adam and Eve lived in a garden paradise.

There's no place here to say why I no longer believe those things, but let's just say my doubt about the literal truth of the creation story goes back to this: there was no one there witness creation unfolding as it occurred. Who was around to see light created and set apart from darkness? How are we to know when the creatures of the earth were created since that occurred before life was breathed into Adam? Unlike the life of Jesus, which was witnessed and observed, no one was around to see the void that was the earth before God set his hand to all the finishing touches.

Certainly, I have no problem believing God created us through processes that the Bible never intended to describe nor which its authors could have understood or explained. Darwinistic randomness makes no sense to me at all and "intelligent design," or something close it, seems the best explanation of how things came to be.

Because so much of the creation and origin of man story in the Bible is, to me, figurative, I do not buy that sin necessarily originated in two people. The amazing thing that hit me the other day though is whether or not Adam and Eve literally ate from a "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" in the Garden of Eden is beside the point. Whether or not sin originated in those two naked people, somewhere in Mesopotamia, really doesn't matter a whole lot. What matters is that sin did originate somewhere. It's here and there's no getting around it. There's no denying it. There's no avoiding it. Only a fool could look at the whole of human history -- or even the last few months of news -- and conclude that sin does not exist.

Even beyond that, what struck me for the first time in my 38 years of life is that I am daily confronted with choosing between God's plan for my life or my own plans. I am daily tempted to eat from the proverbial tree, disregarding the warnings of dire consequences. Often times I do not eat; other times I do. The "fall of man" plays out in me continuously. I will not be able to give an account to God that pins my failings on Adam. I am tempted, I have ate and, but for God's grace, I would be expelled from paradise. The story of the fall of Adam and Eve is story. It's my story. It's our story. It may not have ever happened -- or it may have -- all those thousands of years ago somewhere in present day Iraq, but it happens daily with me. I have to choose between God's system and man's system. I pray for the strength to choose wisely.

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