24th September 2018
Chalke Talk 43: Can we really believe the story of Adam and Eve?

What if the Genesis story isn’t about sin, wrath, guilt, and shame, but actually a testament to God's unwillingness to abandon his creation?

This is exactly Steve’s point in this episode of Chalke Talk. Jesus said, “Love God. Love others. Love yourself.” That's a core truth to remember when interpreting any biblical text. In line with this, Steve explains that “Satan” and “Sin” do not appear in the original Genesis text, but are actually developed later in Hebrew thought, and then expounded on by Augustine and Calvin. The Genesis story, Steve argues, is ultimately a myth, or “a kind of profound fable rather than a historical narrative. But a myth which is packed with wisdom.” This wisdom is not necessarily that we are all condemned because of Adam and Eve’s actions, but instead a hallmark of God’s grace as we grow into maturity. As innocence is lost, God’s love still remains. Steve concludes: “the moral freedom of being human, our knowledge of right and wrong, is a daily challenge but also an opportunity.”

So what do you think? If this way of understanding the central myth of the Garden of Eden is true, what difference does it make to the way we see ourselves? And how should it impact the Church’s attitude those beyond its doors?

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Steve is quite right to point out that Judaism has no notion of "original sin." Jewish theologians and biblical scholars argue that the very concept of sin being passed on from parents to children, and hence infecting the whole of humanity, is foreign to the teaching of the Hebrew scriptures. What Steve doesn't mention, however, is that Judaism insists that human beings HAVE TO CONTRIBUTE to their own salvation, and by performing righteous deeds prove that they are God's chosen people. In previous talks Steve quotes Paul approvingly--but only when it it suits him! Steve ignores or suppresses the fact that Paul attacked Jewish beliefs about sin and righteousness, notably in Romans, Galatians and Ephesians. Paul's theology in Romans 5 in particular shows unambigously that sin entered the world through Adam's sin and "spread to all men, because all men sinned." It's true that Paul doesn't use the expression "original sin," nevertheless it is consistent with Augustine's belief that our sin orienattion is inherited (see Psalm 51--"in sin did my mother conceive me.") Judaism argues that people have the free will to choose how they will live morally, whetehr sinfully or righteously. But this is at complete odds with what Paul teaches. Steve is siding with the "Judaizers" against Paul (though of course Paul would claim his beliefs about the original sinfulness of humankind is thoroughly based on scripture). Steve can't have it both ways. Does he agree or disagree with Paul's hermeneutics? There's no middle path. No Christian worth their salt will ever deny that the first humans were born into a world of  "goodness" and "blessing." But Steve has very little to say about why God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. Jews do not believe that Jesus' death can pay for our sins precisely because we can only save ourselves by living faithful, obedient lives. Strangely, Steve doesn't appear to see the significance of this when he opts for "original blessing." Genesis 1-3 is not about "loss of innocence" but rebellion against God, for which Adam and Eve are punished. This is not incompatible with God being a God of love--it is a corollary of it. More exactly, God's love and wrath are inseparable. God's wrath against sin is not a fit of bad temper on his part, but a necessary way of expressing his love, righteousness and holiness. A God who doesn't punish sin would be neither loving or holy. Steve doesn't explain to us why every single solitary human being that has ever lived (bar Jesus) has sinned without exception. How come, in the wake of original blessing and free will NOBODY in history has ever chose or been able to live a sin-free life? By buying into "original blessing" Steve buys into the early Christian heresy known as "PELAGIANISM," which contends that humans can do good without divine assistance because their humanity has not been tainted with original sin. Steve also buys into another heresy known as "MARCIONISM," which excises from the scriptures books that emphasise God's wrath and judgement (i.e. three quarters of the bible as we know it--including all of the Old Testament and three of the gospels, except Luke). Steve is wrong to say that Genesis 1-3 is "myth" or "fable."  Genesis 1-3 does not conform to these genres. If you want to read creation "myths" look at Babylonian. Assyrian, or other Ancient Near Eastern myths. By comparison Genesis is closer to science. In pagan creation stories the sun, moon, stars, sea, land, etc., are gods at war with each other. I feel in all of this that Steve is bending scripture in order to legitimate his on-going revision of historic Judaean-Christian morality. So which is it Steve--are you for Paul or the Rabbis on this question of sin?

 

destroys the notion of justification by works in epistles like Galatians, Romans and Ephesians. In doing this Paul was Jewish beliefs about sin and righteousness by citing texts throughout the Old Testament which declare

FAO  Steve Chalk

Dear Steve,

I have watched and listened to your talk number 43, regarding Adam and Eve. I do not have a very clear view of the doctrines of total depravity or original sin, but I believe that if  the sin issue is taken away from the account of Adam and Eve, there is little room for understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the atonement of our sins.

Although it is right to understand the nature of God before an understand the nature of sin is possible, the issue relating to sin cannot, in my view, be avoided because the Bible says that the wages of sin is death and that all gave sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is for this reason that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, died and rose from the grave, in atonement for the sins of humanity.

Could you please respond to me if there is anything you do not understand, or if you wish to clarify my understanding on these issues.

Thank you.

 

Yours sincerely

Paul Chenery

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