Deathisdefeated

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Covenant Creation Conference: "Symbols and Substance--Genesis from an Artist's Perspective" (Mark Chiacchira)

Listen to Mark's presentation here.

 

First, I’d like to share Mark’s last thought:

Continue to love truth, and share it with love and respect, being mindful that each person is growing in God’s knowledge and wisdom at a level different than yours. Love your brother and sister, and show them the grace God has shown you!

Would that not transform our conversations, even with those with whom we disagree? Of course, it goes without saying that it is only gracious to share the truth we love with those willing to hear it. Therefore if someone just isn’t there, if they don’t want to listen or even consider what we have to share, then we would do better to drop the dialogue altogether than to pursue it with someone who has closed their mind to seeing anything beyond what they have already seen. This brings me to another statement from Mark’s message that I found particularly poignant:

We see only what we look for.

Think about that one for a minute.

Yes, I am still a sovereign grace believer, and so to the point of Mark’s statement from my unwavering commitment to that perspective, it is God who causes us to look for what we ultimately see. But that is why Paul taught us to pray that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. And that prayer should never be abandoned. Not in favor of tradition, or the complacency and comfort of the status quo, or for fear of how “orthodoxy” will define us and perhaps reject us. It is a prayer which I believe applies eternally.

I wanted to open this up to anyone else wanting to share what they found significant about Mark’s presentation. And maybe start it off just by asking one question:

If you could read the equivalent of a local newspaper from the time of Adam, or Enoch...or Noah, or Moses...do you think you would learn anything relevant to how they read essentially the same Scriptures that we read today? I mean that you couldn't know if all of your reading was restricted to contemporary, western literature?

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Another question Mark asked, and this is significant beyond its immediate reference:

Was the fruit that Adam and Eve had access to, the means by which one could live eternally?

I dealt with this in a recent article when discussing the actual substance of the "tree of life" reference in the garden. Are we to believe it is a literal tree, and that by literally eating (picture it, please: picking a piece of fruit off the tree, taking a bite, chewing, swallowing...you know the rest) from it, one would become immortal? That the source of immortality was a woodenly literal tree which was later destroyed by a flood, as some are positing? If that was the case, wouldn't the "immortality" be physical as well? In which case, is that the immortality of which the Bible speaks?

And of course however we understand the "tree of life" image in the garden, we are going to understand the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" the same way. Enter Paul's theology (unless you are literalizing the story in which case Paul's theology isn't particularly relevant, notwithstanding the fact that he extensively references the garden scene.)

Mark does a great job illustrating the difference between "shadow" and "substance." What is the substance behind the shadow of the garden story? It is as story. We can all start there. The next step is to determine what the story is about. And if we are assuming it is about magic trees and talking snakes--that those things are not merely representing or reflecting or shadowing the substance, but that they are the substance--on what do we base this assumption? What drives this interpretation?

One thing that Mark pointed out which I found significant is that the main YEC writers and authorities come from scientific backgrounds. And that is no surprise, considering that they approach the Bible scientifically. But as Mark rightly questioned, should we be approaching it this way? And if your answer is yes, on what are you basing that supposition?

Lots to think about here...
I think that we today do not appreciate this ancient culture, and the way they used story. They relate real people with moral stories. For instance, we today might relate the story of the two trees, by what we often refer to as, "choosing between two paths". We look at today's rebellious teenager and make the comment that he/she "chose the wrong path", rather than saying he/she "chose the wrong tree". In my lecture, I talked about how real people, historical events, and places, are woven together along with prophesy and story. It's like a woven basket that gives us the food of truth much like the fish and loaves.

Here is an example of how Christians can become too rigid in their approach to these things. Some see the snake as literal. If this is the case, why do they then change their literal interpretation when discussing the offspring of the snake? We know from the new testament that the offspring of the serpent are those "brood of vipers" whose father is the devil (Pharisees). When the serpent speaks, it should tip the reader off that this is a person (Religious Leadership) that is sly and cunning. Again, if we take things too literal, we have snakes losing their limbs and crawling on their bellies eating dust, and Jesus stepping on literal snake heads. This is certainly not what the scriptures are about! These are mnemonic elements that help people remember the moral story and their consequences. The text itself is constructed in musical form so as to help one not forget. These are real historical events couched in metaphor and musical structure in order to help the reader remember the truth. Christians need to have the wisdom to look past the physical descriptions in order to understand what the real issues are here.
I talked about how real people, historical events, and places, are woven together along with prophesy and story. It's like a woven basket that gives us the food of truth much like the fish and loaves.

I was going to say, I really liked your visual of the basket weave. :)

Some see the snake as literal. If this is the case, why do they then change their literal interpretation when discussing the offspring of the snake? We know from the new testament that the offspring of the serpent are those "brood of vipers" whose father is the devil (Pharisees). When the serpent speaks, it should tip the reader off that this is a person (Religious Leadership) that is sly and cunning.

Exactly. And why do you suppose Paul said to the Galatians, "who has bewitched you?" The lie of the serpent has always been the same. Also, we must not forget that in Revelation, he is called "that serpent of old." That's another example of how one who is reading Genesis literally is going to have to pull a switcheroo. How many preterists do you know who believe that reference in Revelation is to a literal snake?
Let me inject my two cents...

Turn around the question and it makes you think differently. For example, if I asked you what "it" was that God told Adam and Eve NOT to do, what would you answer? If you say "I think Adam was told not to (fill in the blank with whatever you want)"

When you do this, you are doing damage to teh scripture. If you don't have an alternative explanation that can be put in the blank space, then by logical rules, you MUST accept the literal. That is, in this story, I believe we must accept that there was some kind of literal fruit that was forbidden to be literally eaten. Why? Because there is no other alternative!

Now, does that mean that the CONSEQUENCES of eating a literal fruit cannot be metaphorical? No. In fact, the consequences are CLEARLY metaphorical.

The way I look at it is that the events which happened in antiquity were real events that happened to real people. Nevertheless, the spiritual lessons that were behind the physical actions are not physical at all. They are spiritual. I don't think this ought to surprise anyone. We are all three-part beings (physical, mental, spiritual), and the things done in our bodies have definite impact on our mental and spiritual selves.

As to whether the "serpent" in the garden was real? Well, lacking an alternate explanation from scripture, I have to accept that the serpent was an actual creature. Just as the "fall" of Adam affected all his progeny, the "sin" of the serpent affected all his spiritual progeny.

One more thing as an aside. I think many times we are so locked in the idea that the spirit world cannot possibly be "physical" In our Western mindset, we think that when something is "spiritual" that automatically means it is invisible and not "literal", existing within our world. But there are many, many examples in the bible where the spirit world is manifest into our world. So much so that they can be touched, talked to, eaten with, wrestled with, and engaged in combat with.

Why then is it so hard to think that something which is "spirit" really isn't "literal"? Even the new testament tells us to consider that we might be enertaining angels unaware. Unaware to whom? Well, unaware to us! We can be totally convinced that what we see, hear, touch, and even smell is "physical".

I personally think that this physical world we now inhabit is just a subset of the spiritual. The spiritual is greater, of course. As such, they can come and go here, but we can't go there. So, which is more "real", the spirit, or the flesh? I think the spiritual world is more real by far. Our inability to see it doesn't change that fact.
Doug wrote:
I believe we must accept that there was some kind of literal fruit that was forbidden to be literally eaten. Why? Because there is no other alternative!

Upon what do you base this assumption?

Just one more question, have you listened to Mark's message?
Tami,

I believe we must accept that there was some kind of literal fruit that was forbidden to be literally eaten. Why? Because there is no other alternative!

Upon what do you base this assumption?


I base it upon the assumption that there is no other scriptural literal fruit that is mentioned in the bible other than a tree. Unless you can tell me what ACTION occurred when Eve did whatever she did! Was there some kind of non-literal action that happened with Adam and Eve? If there was, what evidence do you offer to support this action?

Remember, I am not denying that there is metaphor and a deeper spiritual lesson attached to the literal act. I am just stating that lacking any evidence for a non-literal act in the garden, I take scripture at face value and believe there was a literal fruit and a literal tree.
Did you listen to Mark's message? That is the topic of this thread.

Furthermore, you haven't answered the question. On what do you base the assumption that the garden story should be read literally, scientifically, or biologically? Do you read the other Old Testament prophets this way when they use the very same language and images?
Doug,

You have questions about the literalness of the fruit from the tree. Look at how Ezekiel understands the trees of Eden. He doesn’t take them literally but as symbols for Nations that surround Israel and are God’s instrument. You may recall that King Neb in Daniel 4 & 5 was also compared to a tree and those in its shade and branches were under his dominion. Maybe we might want to consider the biblical understanding of the trees as they are defined in scripture. A study of Biblical trees from Genesis to Revelation doesn’t leave one with the impression they were literal trees in the most part and in fact Jesus stated that His Kingdom dominion would be like the largest of Garden Trees (Matt 13:32).

The story of the Garden Trees is used by Ezekiel in a manner that would get most of us declared as heretics concerning his application. However he was comfortable doing so.

Here are two examples of Ezekiel’s tree and garden applications to Nations.

Eze 28:12-21 "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (13) YOU WERE IN EDEN, THE GARDEN OF GOD … On THE DAY THAT YOU WERE CREATED they were prepared. (14) YOU WERE AN ANOINTED GUARDIAN CHERUB. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. (15) You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. (16) In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. (17) Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. (18) By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.

Eze 31:2-9 "Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: "Whom are you like in your greatness? (3) Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches and forest shade, and of towering height, its top among the clouds. (4) The waters nourished it; the deep made it grow tall, making its rivers flow around the place of its planting, sending forth its streams to all the trees of the field. (5) So it towered high above all the trees of the field; its boughs grew large and its branches long from abundant water in its shoots. (6) All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; under its branches all the beasts of the field gave birth to their young, and under its shadow lived all great nations. (7) It was beautiful in its greatness, in the length of its branches; for its roots went down to abundant waters. (8) The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor the fir trees equal its boughs; neither were the plane trees like its branches; NO TREE IN THE GARDEN OF GOD WAS ITS EQUAL IN BEAUTY. (9) I made it beautiful in the mass of its branches, and ALL THE TREES OF EDEN ENVIED IT, THAT WERE IN THE GARDEN OF GOD.

Eze 31:16-18 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. AND ALL THE TREES OF EDEN, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below. … (18) "Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness AMONG THE TREES OF EDEN? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below. You shall lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword. "This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD."



Norm
Just a few more thoughts regarding this comment Mark made about the "serpent":

When the serpent speaks, it should tip the reader off that this is a person (Religious Leadership) that is sly and cunning. Again, if we take things too literal, we have snakes losing their limbs and crawling on their bellies eating dust, and Jesus stepping on literal snake heads. This is certainly not what the scriptures are about!

"When the serpent speaks": I think it would be appropriate to ask the question, where else in Scripture do we find the serpent speaking? And what is the lie he tells?

But first, who is he? Compare these two passages:

Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil (cunning, crafty) than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.

Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

It seems we have a contest going on. Between a "serpent" which is more cunning than any beast of the field (who all apparently possess some degree of craftiness--and don't miss this: as they were originally created) and the heart of man which is deceitful above all things. Eve replied to God, "The serpent beguiled ("deluded, seduced, deceived") me." And yet her own heart was deceitful above all things.

Were not Eve's own thoughts sufficient to deceive her into thinking that "eating" from the "tree" would make her "like God?" Is not the lie of the serpent in the garden the same lie told by the adversary (the "brood of vipers" and "offspring of snakes") in the first century? Is this accidental language?

Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched ("fascinated by false representations") you, that ye should not obey the truth?

The serpent's prodigy were those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous [by the keeping of the law] (Luke 18:9). But righteousness doesn't come by the law. By the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

Paul said, "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Just as God had said to Adam, "in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

And for the literalist who asks, what actually happened when they ate of the tree?

Gen 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; ("for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified--made righteous--for by the law is the knowledge of sin.") Do we think for even a minute this is speaking of physical nakedness?

Eve believed the lie of her own mind ("the serpent beguiled me") which was that by the self-righteous works of the law (eating the "forbidden fruit" of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil") she would find wisdom. But wisdom is found only in Christ, "the tree of life":

Pro 3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
Serpent is the noun form of the Hebrew verb Strong's number=005172. As such, other nouns including legitimate descriptions of people are included in the term.

Looking at the Strong's definitions, I came up with a couple alternate translations:

Gen. 3:13, ...And the woman said, The enchanter beguiled me, and I did eat.

Gen. 3:13, ...And the woman said, The empiricist deceived me, and I did eat.

Blessings.
Norm and Tami,

I DO appreciate the verses you forwarded, and will think on them. Yet, I am still wrestling with my original question. Namely, if the tree, and the fruit, etc., were not literal, then what DID happen in Eden?

For example, did Eve just saunter over and have a conversation with this being (whatever he was). After the conversation, did she just have a "sinful moment in her heart" and that was what "eating of the tree" was? Was Adam and Eve really clothed in the garden (with physical clothes) and then when they "knew they were naked" they really just realized that they had sinned?

Like I said, I don't have problems with metaphors. But I also don't have problems with the existence of real things and real events which are portrayals of deeper spiritual things. Why then are we wrestling with this issue? Why is it hard to imagine that real events as outlined in Genesis really happened, but that they were allegories and metaphors for deeper spiritual truths? Why do we have to throw away the thing that literally happened in all cases to discover the "spiritual" truth?

I completely see how going down the "literal road" can trip one up in understanding things such as the age of the earth, or the length of creation days, or how it can spin off and take people down the road of futurism and make them entirely miss out on the covenantal nature of the bible. But I don't see how accepting that some things literally happened the way described will keep you from seeing the big picture intended in scripture. I fear going too far into symbolism will make the entire bible just one big symbolic intellectual exercise, and I see danger in that just as much as there is danger in making things too literal.
But I don't see how accepting that some things literally happened the way described will keep you from seeing the big picture intended in scripture.

Doug, quick comment. I appreciate what you are saying. I think however that what a lot of us here are saying is that a literal interpretation is actually in conflict with "the big picture intended in Scripture," to use your wording. I would encourage you to continue looking at the prophets, especially the numerous passages Norm has presented in various threads here. And continue asking the question, "what was the goal of redemption?" Answering that will shed a lot of light on the nature of the curse in Genesis. And the nature of the first creation in relationship to the new creation.

A lot of people have done a lot of work on this--a lot of speaking and writing. There is no shortage of material to aid you in your study. Just at NCMI, we have many hours of recorded conversations that are specifically focused toward the very questions you are asking here. And we are still talking it through, and still asking questions ourselves. In so doing we are continually pursuing and increasingly experiencing "the honor of kings."

Sincerely,
Tami
www.newcreatonministries.tv

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