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CHAPTER 6: LEAVING THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Our story so far: God told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam ate it. His eyes were opened, knowing good and evil. Now what? How does God respond? What's a father to do?

GOD'S RESPONSE

Here again are the pertinent verses from Genesis Chapter 3:

16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for you husband, and he shall rule over you."

17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the Tree about which I commanded you, saying, `You shall not eat from it'; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.

18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field;

19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

20 Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever"­­­­

23 Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

24 So he drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

The events are clear. God tells Adam and Eve they will suffer. It is also plain that God will cause this suffering. "I will greatly multiply your pain...cursed is the ground because of you..." He casts them out of the Garden, making it impossible for them to eat the Tree of Life. God prevents Adam and Eve from living forever. He, in essence, condemns them to death. Why does God do this? "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the Tree about which I commanded you, saying, `you shall not eat from it'." That certainly sounds as though God is punishing Adam for disobedience.

But he wasn't. As we have seen in the previous two sections, Adam's disobedience was the indirect problem; it led to the direct problem, which was the knowledge of good and evil.

Example: a parent says, "Don't touch anything under the sink." Adam disobeys, drinks some poison and becomes very sick. The parent responds, "Because you didn't do what I told you, we have to take you to the hospital." In this example it is very easy to see that though Adam's disobedience led to his sickness, it is not the disobedience itself that made him sick; the poison made him sick. The fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was poison. And Adam was quickly getting sick. "All right, fine. But God still punished Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree." That is the next issue we must examine: punishment.

THE TWO TYPES OF PUNISHMENT

Remember from Chapter 4 our discussion of two forms of parental commands, selfish and selfless. We concluded that God must have been acting selflessly in his prohibition against the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with their best interests in mind. In the previous Chapter we saw the harm that came to Adam from this Tree. Recall also our illustration of little Adam and the x!@. What happens if/when little Adam does indeed touch the x!@? In the answer #1 (selfish) scenario the parent gets hurt. Parent feels anger and loss because the x!@ Is important to him/her. In the answer #2 (selfless) scenario Adam gets hurt. Parent feels sorrow for Adam because he has been pained, and tries to comfort and heal.

Who was hurt through Adam's transgression? The only obvious answer is "Adam". If that is true, and God was acting selflessly and lovingly toward Adam and Eve, then God must have felt sorrow for Adam and Eve because they had been pained, and tried to comfort and help heal them. How then are we to understand that God "greatly increased" their pain and "cursed" them for what they had done?

Good question.

There are two types of punishment, paralleling the two types of parenting:

Punishment type #1 seeks to hurt another as retribution for some harm experienced by the punisher. This is vindictive, after the fact. The parent hates the color green, and has commanded that Adam never wear green clothing. One day Adam "forgets" and wears a green hat. The parent then whips Adam for disobeying, for offending the parent's aesthetics.

Punishment type #2 seeks to deliver a lesser hurt that can be understood/related to, in order to try to prevent some greater hurt that cannot be comprehended. This is protective, before the fact. Little Adam is reaching for a pot on the stove. Parent slaps Adam's hand (which Adam can feel and understand) to communicate the message that Adam must not do that, trying to save Adam from an incomprehensible agony.

Which type of punishment do you think God gave to Adam and Eve?

THE VINDICTIVE GOD OF THE CUG

The commonly understood Gospel, while wrong, is at least consistent in its view of the arbitrary, vindictive God. God is "just" (CUG # 3). He required, therefore, obedience for its own sake. Thus the command not to touch the one Tree. Adam disobeyed (CUG #6) out of stubborn, sinful rebellion. God punished Adam for having done this, casting him from the Garden of Eden, destined to lifelong suffering until dying a death of eternal separation from God (CUG # 8 & 9).

God was angry. His perfect righteousness was offended, and he absolutely would not want to have His disgusting, sinful children around to mar His heavenly beneficence and glory. Since the test of obedience was arbitrary, "God" could have simply forgotten or forgiven the transgression. Such a vast amount of suffering from such a small, meaningless test. Like a spoiled child who has been offended, "God" gets mad that Adam and Eve failed this arbitrary test. He has one really nice toy that He will only let His friends play with: the Tree of Life. And since Adam and Eve made Him mad, "God" won't let them touch His nice Tree. So out they had to go. "Get out of my sight! I never want to see you again! And for good measure, I'll be sure you never enjoy another day as long as you live!!"

Some "god", huh? A selfish, arbitrary parent, who vindictively punishes his children eternally for offending his capricious whims, multiplying pain and suffering to vent his all­powerful anger.

This is not right! This is a manifestation of the very evil that came into the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is a vision of a God as evil as the minds that conceived it. It is, in fact, evil itself. It is not real.

Yet this is the conception we have had drilled into us.

Once Adam and Eve began to know good and evil, everything became polluted. Especially their knowledge of God.

THE REAL GOD

The real God, the creator of heaven and earth, our heavenly father:

  • God is love. (I John 4:7)
  • God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (I John 1:5)
  • Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting! (Psalms 106:1)

Why, then, would a good, loving God "increase pain...curse...and cast out?" Strange as it may seem to our darkened hearts and minds, He was trying to help. To heal. "What??!?" That's right. You see, after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, a disease was born in their soul; the knowledge of good and evil may not have been toxic to God, but it was absolutely deadly (!) to Adam and Eve, who were created to be manifestations of pure good. Just like little Adam in the example of the poison under the sink, they have eaten something very harmful to them.

Now, what is a loving parent to do? If you saw your child convulsing from ingesting poison, after you had warned/ordered him/her to stay away from the kitchen sink, how would you respond? Would you slap your child for disobeying you? Would you throw him/her out on the street, vowing to never speak to them again? If you had an antidote for the poison, would you deny it to them in anger? Of course not!! It is only the most vile and loathsome so­called parents who would act in such a horrible manner.

Yet again, this is exactly the behavior the common understanding of the Gospel ascribes to God!!!

At the point that your child is writhing in pain, slapping him/her has no value. No meaning. You are willing to forgive any trespass. The fact of your child's disobedience is absolutely meaningless in the light of the life­threatening situation he/she now faces. You must deal with the poison!

It is exactly the same with God. Adam's transgression, the fact that he disobeyed, was and is insignificant. God is love. God is forgiving. "For Thou, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee." (Psalm 86:5) God was not punishing Adam. Forgiveness, if it was needed, was already his. All he had to do was ask. No problem. Paradise never lost.

The problem, however, was Adam's sickness. Knowledge of good and evil was eating him alive. Killing him. Causing him to be ego­centered, out of harmony with his mate, hiding from his God.

What Adam needed was an antidote! But God didn't have one on hand. Not quite yet. It would take a few thousand years to make one.

But God got to working on it right away.

And when it was ready, He made it available to everyone.

In another Garden.

Called Gethsemane.

TO THE HOSPITAL

But in the mean time, God still had a little problem. What to do with Adam? If your child was convulsing from poison, and you didn't have an antidote at hand, what would you do? In all probability you would take him/her to the hospital. Which is exactly what God did to Adam!

God sent Adam out of the Garden of Eden, into the cold world, to till the soil by the sweat of his brow until he returned to the ground. This world is a hospital for souls sick with the knowledge of good and evil. But why did Adam and Eve have to suffer? Why did God say He was going to "greatly multiply" their pain?

It was a blessing that God added pain to Adam and Eve's lives. Pain, albeit unpleasant, serves a very good and useful purpose: to indicate what is wrong, and to steer us toward what is right. Without it, we could destroy ourselves utterly without the slightest indication that anything is wrong.

In fact, this condition exists. It is a disease medical science calls neuropathy. People with this disease have nerve endings that are incapable of transmitting pain signals. People with this condition can actually amputate one of their own limbs and not feel a thing. They simply die from blood loss. It is a very deadly disease, in that children afflicted with it must be carefully supervised and taught how to avoid situations that seem harmless to them.

This was precisely the situation with Adam and Eve. Yes, they had caught the sickness of good and evil knowledge. Yet it did not control them utterly; there was still much life within them. God gave them pain to be their guide. Life out of balance would yield suffering, as a constant tutor to lead us back to the truth. But, thanks to the fact that God kept them from the Tree of Life, the suffering would not be everlasting.

BARRED FROM THE TREE OF LIFE

One nagging issue remains: the Tree of Life. Why did God make it impossible for Adam and Eve to have access to it? If the Tree of Life could give everlasting life to Adam and Eve, why didn't God allow them to eat from it? In other words, since the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil brought death to them, wouldn't the Tree of Life heal them? Wasn't this, in fact, the antidote for the poison in their soul that we referred to earlier? It seems incredibly cruel for God to deny them this Tree, if it could have solved their problem.

The Tree of Life is life itself. Ever growing. The source of all living things. It is rooted in the spiritual world, in that life is much more than a collection of chemical processes. Being a spiritual reality, not bound by its manifestation within time or space, it is eternal. Whatever touches or "eats" from this Tree becomes immortal.

Therefore, if God had allowed Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life, their knowledge of good and evil, and all the suffering it begat, would have become immortal and everlasting!

To use the illustration of the poison once again, this would be like little Adam convulsing and retching in pain forever and ever and ever and...... But God is love, and He would never let such a thing happen to His children. He loved them, and wanted to protect them from harm. Remember, that in His act of creation God manifested only goodness. Through the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve gained knowledge of evil, all those potentials God sought to avoid. (Hopefully this point has been well made by now.) Had these non­manifest potentialities been touched by the Tree of Life, they would have been given manifest, positive reality. At which point evil, instead of being a knowledge of what is not, a delusion, would have become a created/manifest existence of equal status with the rest of the universe.

So He sent them from Eden, placing an angel to "guard the way to the Tree of Life", to certify that they could not accidentally stumble upon it and immortalize their knowledge of evil. Paradise lost. But not forever.

ON SIN AND DEATH

"The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) "The soul who sins will die." (Ezekiel 18:4) Knowledge of good and evil is deadly. Souls sickened with this disease have been barred from the Tree of Life. Hopefully it is clear by this time that God has set things up this way as a manifestation of his love and concern. Life is good. Knowledge of evil brings pain and suffering. If sin could touch the Tree of Life then the suffering would be everlasting. In his goodness God saw to it that all suffering from sin would be limited and temporal.

So, all sin must die. Will die. Not as a punishment or retribution, but as a natural result (wage). For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. For every sin there is death. We see this in two important ways:

1) Directly, death of the sin. Hatred must die. Enmity must stop. Strife will end. Darkness will give way to light.

2) Indirectly, death of the part of the soul that is attached to the sin.

This last idea is quite important and must be expanded. I'll use an example. Let's say that little Adam is perfect in every way except one: he hates the x!@. It has plagued him throughout this entire writing, and by now he is sick of it. He hates, loathes and despises it. This hatred, with all of its ugly and unpleasant feelings, cannot be allowed to continue forever. It must stop. Adam must cease his hatred. This sin must die. So, that part of Adam's soul which is attached to the idea of hating the x!@, those thoughts and feelings, must die. That part of Adam's soul must repent, turning away from this sin.

All of our thoughts, feelings and desires are a part of us, of our soul. That part of us that is polluted must be healed. The cancer must be killed. The part of our soul that is diseased with sin must die. Not the whole soul, just the part that is sick! The CUG (#11) would have us believe that due to one sin, one time, Adam eternally lost communion with God; that this one act of disobedience so angered God's sense of justice that he could never, ever tolerate to see his children again.

This belief is a manifestation of evil. It is wrong. Once again it ascribes to God the most atrocious of acts and motivations. Back to the example of the x!@ again. Adam's parent said "don't touch it." But Adam did. What kind of human filth would be so angered that he/she would never, ever speak to Adam again? In fact, is there anything at all that your child could do that would cause you to disown them forever? For a loving parent the answer is "no!" Though the parent may rightly renounce the act, the parent will always care for the child. "Hate the sin but love the sinner."

So too with God! Any sinful act must simply be repented of; it is not necessary for the entire soul to die.

However, there is a deeper problem: the knowledge of good and evil still remains. This is the state of sin, which will continue to generate acts of suffering. The state of sin can be likened to cancer, which in turn attacks different organs in the body. We can eradicate the cancer from each organ, but until the body stops producing new cancer cells, it is not really healthy.

REPENTANCE

Turning from sin in the Bible is called repentance. We have stated that evil is a knowledge, a mode of perception. It is therefore not so surprising, now that we are beginning to really understand this whole business of evil / sin / punishment / repentance, that the Greek word we translate into English as "repent" is "metanoia". It literally means "To change the mind". To "repent" means to think differently!

So here are a few passages with the word "repent" replaced with "Think differently":

  • Job 36:10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to think differently of their evil.
  • Matt 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Think differently, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
  • Acts 8:22 "Think differently of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart."
  • Acts 17:30 "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to think differently."

Astounding, yes?

Though it should be obvious, I will nevertheless state that repentance doesn't consist simply in stopping what you are doing or feeling sorry for past acts. It's essence is to have a different attitude (thinking) all together.

CONCLUSIONS

So we see that God is very willing and eager to forgive. He does not need or want to punish anyone eternally for anything. Each act of sin must stop. This is called repentance. That part of the soul which is attached to the sin will die, for God has seen to it that all evil and suffering is temporal and limited. But the fundamental problem remains: knowledge of good and evil. That is the root of sin, the state of sin. Individual sins are the branches and flowers (fruit!) from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Mankind will not be healthy until the state of sin is eliminated, until we no longer know good and evil, but only life. God was preparing the cure.

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