Friday, February 8, 2013

"Creation and the Fall"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 6: "Creation and the Fall"
How in the world can anybody find good news in bad news? Are there any "do-overs"? What can be said about the Fall of our first parents that inspires hope of restoration? And how does the message of 1888 give insight to God's response to "our" rebellion?
"Misery loves company." When someone is guilty they like to drag others down with them. Assuming the form of a beautiful creature, Satan led Eve on a pathway of false assumptions regarding the character of God. Implying doubt as to God's word not to eat of the tree ("Yea, hath God said. ...?"), he got Eve to add to the warning "neither shall ye touch it." But Eve "saw" the creature eating the fruit; and so he told her the lie, "Ye shall not surely die." God is withholding "knowing good and evil" by which you may become "god" (Gen. 3:1-5).
His three deceptions were woven together into one strand: (1) There will be no death, for Eve believed the serpent that man's nature is immortal; (2) "knowing good and evil" is essential, for there is a conjunction of opposites; and (3) "ye shall be God," for divinity dwells within every immortal human soul and only awaits self-realization.
The serpent's argument went like this: If God has created all these opposites--if there is darkness and light; if there is earth and water; if male and female are to be one, why not see evil as an acceptable opposite to good? God was holding back something from them, some knowledge that would enhance their happiness and actually enable them to realize that they too were divine, yes, were "God." They could discover Him within themselves. Our mother Eve embraced the deception, and became the first person to believe that evil must always balance good, even for all eternity. She seized the fruit and ate, and her husband joined her in the experiment.
The conjunction of opposites is so fundamental to the thinking of hundreds of millions in Eastern religions--Hinduism and Buddhism. The ability to blend, mingle, and harmonize these two conflicting opposites would bring forth a transformation, the pathway to enlightenment. The end result is oneness of everything with complete understanding. "God" is all--pantheism.
Mankind fell for this notion. "Despite the consequences, from that day to this, humanity appears to have shown an obsession for actually trying to prove that the idea works and of achieving this long-sought-for oneness through the amalgamation of opposites." [1] It is the cornerstone of post-modernism. It is the reconciliation of the eternal principle that good and evil exist in "god" and in man. All thought is "god's" thought.
In the early Christian church by the 5th century, St. Augustine worked out a synthesis between the two opposites Divine-love (agape) and self-love (eros), and gave it the Latin term caritas which has been translated into the King James Bible as "charity." Martin Luther, a thousand years later, was able to partially break through the fog in his rediscovery of agape because he was the only one of the Protestant Reformers who believed in the nature of man and rejected the pagan-papal immortality of the soul. Thus he could begin to comprehend "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of "the love of Christ" (Eph. 3:18, 19). Jesus chose the cursed, God-forsaken second death for every poor sinner. Goodbye to life forever. He died penniless, having deposited all His riches into the bank accounts of sinners. His agape, the forgiveness of sins,--justification by faith,--was given to all.
Now through Luther's insight New Testament faith could come into its own. Whereas faith motivated by self-love is always concerned about it's own eternal reward and afraid of going to hell; faith motivated by agapeappreciates what it cost the Saviour to die upon His cross. Unfortunately, Luther's successors--Melancthon, Zwingle, Calvin, and the other Reformers--failed to understand agape because of their adherence to the pagan-papal notion of the immortal soul.
It wasn't until a young woman, barely out of her teens took her pen and began to write some testimonies in the 1840s and '50s, that agape finally came back into its own. Ellen White's writings are permeated with the idea. [2]
The reality is that mother Eve had to disbelieve God's good news in Eden. She chose rather to believe the bad news about God. She chose to believe that God lied when He said "thou shalt not eat of" "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). She believed that God was withholding some knowledge that would help her achieve the divine enlightenment. Of course, unbelief in God's Word was the basis of Satan's new religion, which necessitated the eventual overthrow of God from His throne. Satan hoped to convince the whole universe of this principle of self-love.
Eve actually believed the serpent's deception (2 Cor. 11:3). Adam did not. He joined her in the evil step only because he loved her. Whatever this mysterious, unknown thing to come might be that God said was "death," he chose to share it with her. But mother Eve's original deception included the idea that there would be no death: "Ye shall not surely die," the wily serpent had assured her. Here is the origin of the idea of the natural immortality of the human soul.
Adam, with his eyes wide open, in full knowledge, knew that eating the forbidden fruit would be sin (James 4:17). In unbelief he stepped out on forbidden ground. His very nature was changed by his willful choice. At that moment he was no longer capable of doing good. "By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men," resulting in condemnation to an eternal grave (Rom. 5: 12, 18). No hope of life, no hope of even one bite of food, or a breath of air, or a glass of cold water. Not one single thing was ours by Adam's one choice. Adam joined Satan's rebellion and turned over the dominion to the "prince [ruler] of this world" (John 14:30).
The 1888 message provides insight into the everlasting covenant originally given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). God promised to "put enmity" between the woman and her descendants and Satan. God promised to put hatred in human hearts for evil. God put a desire for good and right in the heart of everyone to some degree. You have been given your "measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). You have already received the ability to "believe."
When God made the promise to Adam and Eve it was Christ who was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Christ became surety for the entire human race. He put Himself on the line to bring about all that He promised to Adam and Eve. God did not require from Adam and Eve a promise to obey Him, there is no record of any such transaction.
But thank God that "by the righteousness of One," the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world, who became surety for a lost race, "the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:18, REB). Because of Jesus Christ's one righteous act we can eat food today, breath the air, and drink the water. If we do not refuse this gift of life we already enjoy, we will live forever in eternal life. We will be ever thankful that He saved us from the eternal grave that was ours by Adam's disobedience. He did it all by His own promise. He simply says "harden not your hearts" (Heb. 4:7).
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ernest H. J. Steed, Two Be One, p. 10.
[2] For example see Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 27.