Throughout this short series of posts I have been attempting to get across the enormity of the situation that the writer of Genesis so economically presents. Once grasped, the implications are simply gigantic. The myth of Adam and Eve is embedded in our culture, and as such it can be difficult to access its power. It has become a ‘fairy story’ for children and consequently the message is largely lost as it is turned into a revenue generation tool for the corporations. It seems to me that our culture likes to minimise the ‘old myths’ and those who are open minded enough to pay attention are forced to grapple to gain anything useful beyond variations of ‘God saw that it was good’ and a sense that somehow things went belly up.
In ‘The Fall – Towards What it Was’ we suggested that Adam & Eve turned away from their identity as God’s image/idol  and rejected his commission to rule and subdue the earth by which the ‘half – creation’ outside Eden was to become the place of God’s dwelling – his temple. They projected their hopes onto the unclean serpent and the tree, thereby engaging in idolatry, diminishing themselves and choosing to draw their identities from the created rather than the creator. In essence, this comes down to the ‘difficulty that the human heart and mind can have in genuinely trusting God as wise creator’ and living in that space.
Are the Effects of the Fall Obvious?
On one level the fall has obvious consequences; you have only to look around to see them. At the same time there is much of beauty that surrounds us. There seems to be paradox at work, and many attest to a sense that something is wrong, or missing, or experience that longing which is beyond words. “Stuff happens” as people say, and some of that stuff just breaks us. (insert the word of your choice for “stuff”)
So, some of the effects of the fall are obvious. But not all.
This is really important. How can you grasp the end of a story if you do not know the beginning? As our picture of what we once were is enlarged, so our understanding of what we have lost becomes heightened. Then our wonder at the atonement can only grow. The end point is worship.
In this post and the next, I want to focus on the consequences for Adam and Eve of that initial projection of trust onto created things rather than in Yahweh God; the first act of idolatry. Some of these have already been hinted at. Humans had access to the perfect source of moral authority, and knew the “knowledge of the good and evil.” As we saw in “The fall – what it wasn’t” our ancestors were to grow naturally in their ability to judge between good and evil. Up until this point they had experiential knowledge of good, and now through their disobedience they come to experience evil too. The tree was there as a boundary to help them grow naturally in this wisdom but in eating from it the tree became really the “tree or the knowledge of evil.”
You Become that which you worship
We have seen that the disobedience bought shame into the experience of Adam and Eve. This shame consumed them, causing them to hide from Yahweh. Interestingly, the Hebrew Bible suggests quite specifically that we become what we worship. In Psalm 135 we read:
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them.
Throughout my church experience I have heard it said “You become like what your worship”. Here the psalmists suggests this is true, and this idea is carried into the Genesis account. Adam and Eve become like the tree as they cover themselves with fig leaves (3:7) and like the serpent as Yahweh cloths them in ‘garments of skins’. (3:21) Lacocque has provocatively written that the image of God has become the image of the serpent.
Along with shame, there is a dulling of the senses to the realm of the divine. Ps 135:18 says that those who trust or create idols will become like the objects of their attention. We saw that in the aNE (ancient near east) idols were thought to be manifestations of the divinity and were therefore alive. The psalm tells us that in reality this is obviously not true, mentioning specifically that they have dysfunctional senses. Clearly people who are into idols are not all blind and deaf and breathless. It seems likely then that this dulling of the senses is with reference to the divine realm and this in turn sheds light on the repetition of such ideas in the gospels. On several occasions Jesus takes up this theme of people whose senses appear to function yet are insensible to spiritual things.
The human now finds it relentlessly difficult to trust Yahweh, partly as a result of this dulling. We experience shame in the presence of God, and share in the inclination of our forebears to idolatry with the horror of becoming what we worship.
In the next post, The Fall – Consequences – Part 2, we will unpack this some more.
- Part of this was that they were going to grow in their knowledge and wisdom which illustrates the issue with the tree more clearly.
- Naturally images of human made buildings spring to mind when considering temples. Who knows what the outworking or this great commission would have been? Just imagine the art and science that we could have created in that pre-fall state.
- Moberly “Did the Interpreters Get it Right? Genesis 2-3 reconsidered”, p.37.
- Lacoque, The Trial of Innocence. Adam, Eve and the Yahwist, 2006 Lacocque has written ‘the Imago Dei’ becomes the Imago Serpentis’
- Matt 11, 13; Luke 10