Humanity Tumbled: A Disordered World

When God began to create, God took what was unordered and ordered it to make a good, habitable space. God filled it with life, blessed it for growth and development, and gave humanity a choice.

This choice is highlighted by the presence of the snake in the garden. The snake is clever but is also a symbol of chaos in the ancient world. This crafty snake is the presence of chaos in the garden.

But why does God permit chaos in the garden? Perhaps it highlights freedom. The man and woman may choose, and chaos gives them space to choose. The snake probes them and offers what they want. They want to be like God. Not because they are rebels but because their destiny is to be like God.  God created them to become divine-like. God wants them to be able to discern between good and evil because this is part of what it means to be like God.

The snake, however, asks them to distrust God and take a shortcut to maturity. Like all children, they want to grow up fast. They grasp for wisdom as the snake outwits and deceives them. In their immaturity, they choose folly, and consequently, they fail to grow up. They circumvent the process that makes authentic wisdom and human flourishing possible. They do not maliciously rebel but as immature children they fail to trust their parent, as all children have done since.

When they eat what was forbidden, they fall upward. They gain knowledge but they aren’t ready for it. It burdens them with toxic shame, and they realize they are naked. Their distrust generates fear and mutual accusation. They gain knowledge but at a cost.

Consequences follow.  Shortcuts sometimes have dire outcomes, and any shortcut to maturity is strewn with potholes and obstacles. Ill-equipped for knowledge, their choice introduces anxiety, brokenness, and fear.

While harmony once existed within Eden, now hostility emerged between the serpent and the woman. While childbearing was originally free of anxiety, now the woman will bear children with great fear. While the original couple once knew harmony in their marriage, now they will experience conflict. While in the garden the man enjoyed a bountiful provision, now he will anxiously struggle with the ground to produce food.  While in Eden the man and woman were nourished by the tree of life, now they will experience death.

These transitions are not so much punishments but what follows from foolish decisions. Folly leads to self-destruction and death. The original couple did not trust God’s timetable for maturity and rushed headlong into knowledge for which they were unprepared. As a result, they created a different world for themselves than the one God provided in Eden. This brought disorder and moral chaos into God’s good, ordered creation. These consequences are fully realized when they are exiled from the garden. Due to their folly, life was no longer innocent. But God responded with honesty and grace. God described the consequences and then graced them with clothing, preserved their lives east of Eden, and blessed them with children. They now became Adam and Eve as the man named Eve as the mother of all living. This is no angry God but a loving parent who practices tough love with children who must learn how to live the hard way. Adam and Eve must now attend the school of hard knocks east of Eden.

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